Jat Mann explains that sometimes the customer isn't always right

“What do you mean you don’t know everything about IT…?”

This month, Jat Mann reminisces about a tricky situation with a particular customer and what can be learnt from it.

Hopefully by the time you read this column, the sun will still be shining.

This month, I will be sharing a story with you that actually has a deeper meaning for all businesses. Whenever I am dealing with companies or am simply out as a consumer, I see the service that companies are providing from the customer’s perspective and sometimes try to suggest where things can be improved (regrettably sometimes on deaf ears).

Back in the day when I was actually an on-site engineer and building up PC PAL from a single location into a larger network, I had a slightly surreal conversation with a particular customer that I don’t think I will ever forget.

The customer had an issue with her computer, but before she would discuss that in any detail, she wanted to know if I knew everything about IT. I asked her if she meant everything about fixing computers or absolutely everything in the whole IT world? Unfortunately, she meant the latter…

I gave the customer an honest answer – nobody knows everything about fixing every single computer problem, and that IT is an umbrella term for anything from making microchips, websites and software to building corporate networks. She wasn’t impressed – she said she was looking for someone who knew everything about IT, and ended the conversation.

I’d like to share three things to be learnt from this. Firstly, every successful business needs to manage the expectations of the customer (in other words, ensuring you can deliver what you promise and what the customers expect). Sometimes you simply cannot fulfil the customer’s needs and therefore I believe it’s better to suggest an alternative supplier or solution, rather than risk regretting getting embroiled in a time and energy sapping situation where no one wins in the end.

Secondly, the customer is not always right. I strongly feel that there is no shame in declining to offer to help a customer when you feel uncomfortable about what the customer has said to you or the way they behave.

And thirdly, the most important lesson is that it’s best to focus on a particular niche within the market, rather than trying to be all things to all people. One cannot be a ‘jack of all trades’ – we all know the second part of that phrase.

It’s tempting to follow a competitor’s service or think “we could do that too”, but you run the risk of over-diversifying and spreading yourself too thinly.

Few organisations succeed in growing the number of services they offer; one often overlooks the trials and tribulations of learning to build up a business.

Another saying goes, ‘the second mouse gets the cheese’, so why not focus on identifying and sticking to your niche and learning from other firms’ experiences?

Enjoy the summer.

Jat Mann is MD of www.PCPal.co.uk. You can contact him on jat@pcpal.co.uk

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