The customer is always right?

Is the customer always rights?
The question is more complicated than face value. Within the context of a single event you could make a case that the answer is yes. But this study posted on LinkedIn about customer experience and expectations suggests the customer may not always know what is best.  Of course what’s best depends on who is judging the situation. What’s best for the customer, as in a lowest price, may not always be what’s best for the business.  According to the study,the problem for businesses is that it often isn’t what drives additional sales.

Digging into voice of the customer.
I looked at the voice of customer remarks for the eCommerce sites that I help operate. There are definetly patterns within the data so I pulled some common customer feedback to analyze. The question to consider was would it add value to the business transaction to do what the customer wanted? Here’s a look at three of the common feedback items:

Lower prices – It’s the Internet and customers are used to retailers enticing them with free shipping. In my case consumers opinions are molded by banks offering “free checking”. But if the business lowered pricing for expedited delivery on product sales would the customers that are looking for lower delivery prices be more likely to upgrade from standard delivery?

Would lower prices add more value? No. Price sensitive customers want to shop for the lowest price but will leave anyways if they find a lower price elsewhere. For the business it creates a race to zero. Zero margins doesn’t create an environment for a sustainable business.

Ability to change shipping address – This feature is a bit trickier for my site because it is selling a financial instrument (paper check) on behalf of a bank/credit union. In most cases my business is contractually bound to not service an address change. The owning financial institution requires their customer to change their address at a branch location.

Would an address change add more value? Yes for the customer. It keeps them in their preferred channel. Yes for the business. It increases customer satisfaction by saving a trip to the branch or a phone call. This is a good opportunity to use technology to help change a business rule.

Package Change – We recently changed the traditional packaging for our main product from a box to a flat folio container. Prior to the change we conducted focus groups getting input from hundreds of consumers. They indicated overwhelmingly that the package change was a good thing. But post implementation feedback has been mixed.

Would it add value to allow the customer to pick their package type? No. In this case the customer isn’t buying the package. They are buying the product in the package. For the business, it creates more costs to have equipment that provide the product in two different formats and it reduces the opportunity for volume based shipping rates for a given package type.

The article published on LinkedIn gives all of us a subject we should think about more. Is the customer always right? As with many questions in life, my answer is “it depends”.