Sometimes Customers Are Idiots

Mar 26

If you have been in business or selling for more than a few months, I suspect you have encountered a few idiots.

How you manage and deal with people like this can influence your sales results.

Last week I had summer tires installed on my car and was concerned about the excessive road noise I heard when I was driving home. I remembered getting those tires placed on my car last fall, so thinking that they were brand new, I returned to the shop with the mindset of getting them replaced at little or no cost.

Dave, the owner of the shop recognized me and when I explained the problem, he quickly pulled up my history—I have been buying my tires there for about 8 or 9 years. A few moments later he said, “It looks like we installed those tires in 2008.”

I shook my head and said, “No, that’s not possible. You just put them on last fall.”

He studied the computer for a few more minutes before saying, “Yes, you’re right,”

“Ha!” was the thought that through my mind and before I had a chance to respond, he continued, “We originally installed them on your 2006 Lexus but then we put them on your current car last September.”


I was now that idiot customer!

I had forgotten that we replaced our 2006 car with a 2009 model after our previous car was totaled in a car crash. The latter car had all-season tires when we purchased it early in the year and we ended up replacing them last fall with tires we had in storage.

So, although my memory was correct about part of the issue, I didn’t really have my facts in order.

It would have been easy—really easy—for Dave to point out my mistake and make me feel like the idiot I was. In fact, I was actually thinking about how I would save face.

I didn’t need to.

Dave brushed it off and pretended like nothing had happened. I was impressed by his professionalism and lack of need to point out MY mistake.

Unfortunately, not all people in business (and sales) follow Dave’s lead. Far too often they feel compelled to point out a customer’s mistake. They need to demonstrate that they are right and that the customer is wrong.

But, this approach costs them money and affects customer loyalty.

Yes, customers can be idiots. But, treating them like one is a recipe for failure.


5 Comments on Sometimes Customers Are Idiots

  1. The very important thing to remember is that while the customer may not always be right, and may sometimes even be an idiot, the customer is the one with the money. The result is that it is beneficial to treat the customer with courtesy and tact, unless there is a valid reason for sending them and their money away, which, sometimes there is. As an example, do you remember GM Purchasing in the Lopez era? When they took our brilliant proposal and combined it with the lowest bidders price as the base, and asked for a 10% reduction, we decided that was the end. We raised our price quoted by 10% and thanked them for allowing us to correct an error. We did not get the job, but the group that did get it lost money on the job, so we came out ahead.

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