Customers are patrons of goods and services, they keep every business going; no producer jokes with them because they are the ones who decide the survival of every business endeavour.
Little wonder we say the customer is king! Yes, they are kings and queens of all enterprises to whom every producer must bow to remain relevant. Businesses go any length to cultivate customers. Billions of dollars or naira are spent on subliminal advertising every day to create customer awareness for products and services, just to stimulate sales.
However, public utilities, which provide services in this country, do not respect customers. Organisations like the water corporation, hospitals, the electricity companies, etc., are shielded by law from prosecution against poor services to customers. That’s why they don’t care about service delivery. It is only in this country that customers are compelled to pay public service providers for jobs not done or for poor services to the people.
This is an unjust, if unusual, situation, which does not fall within the context of what we are dealing with here. We hope that someday this will change. The customer should be respected.
When there are no customers, businesses pack up. When customers sneeze, producers catch cold. Customers can actually sack workers or get them retrenched en masse, if they reject a product for whatever reason. No company executive dares customer complaints; to do so is to imperil their business. Customers can intimidate a business on a stump. A dying business is often at the mercy of customers.
It is lukewarm customer behaviour that couples businesses to do sales promotion, just to stimulate purchase. You produce a product or service to meet customer expections, if you can’t exceed it. Yet, for all the awesome power of the customer, they can be sacked! Really? Oh, yes! When a customer is irresponsible in certain ways, they can be dismissed.
A customer becomes a liability if they don’t pay debts, get involved in unethical practices like counterfeiting, undercutting of official product price, collusion with workers to defraud a company, etc. When a customer becomes a potent threat to the survival or reputation of a business, they can be sacked. Never keep an errant customer, no matter their status, show them the exit door.
Every so often, bad customer behaviour has led to spectacular business failures like the recent stock market crash. On three occasions, we have seen near collapse of the banking sector in Nigeria because of huge bad debts. Customers just refused to pay loans, or diverted same to other ventures and ended up destroying the lives of poor depositors whose life-savings were loaned out to fat cats who just refused to pay back.
Some of our banks are weak because they are still grappling with bad debts. No bank or serious venture needs such crooked customers. These are not the customers we call kings. Anyone going into a new business should never go with the notion that a customer is untouchable; if they don’t behave well, they can be fired! By all means treat your customers well, respect them and never take them for granted. That’s as far as it goes. If a customer becomes excess luggage, offload them before they drown your business.
You may not stop there, you can actually use the power and solidarity of trade associations to blacklist a bad customer so that they do not continue to harm other businesses. The fabled kingship of the customer is no license to oppress business owners. If you lose one customer you will gain others. No customer is indispensible, no customer should hold you to ransom. Don’t allow it.
Sometimes in an industrial group, customer conspiracy could kill a business over minor disagreements. You must fend off this potential aggression by devising a strategy of containment or counter-measures. This is why it is dangerous to encourage sales monopolies. Where a single or few customers control your sales, they could bring you to your knees, if you are locked in a dispute. Therefore, it is better to diversify your customer base.
At the inception of the GSM phone in this country, wealthy marketers of SIM cards and recharge cards created artificial scarcity by buying up entire stocks, and began to sell them at inflated prices. The GSM companies, MTN, GLO, etc, responded by throwing their supplies wide-open to small retailers who sold SIM cards and recharge cards under umbrellas by the roadside. That bold response crushed the monopolists and sent them out of business. That’s how to deal with rogue-customers.
If the customer-king proves to be an oppressive dictator, they can be toppled. Don’t allow touts intimidate or blackmail you. Act without fear to tame bad customers who sabotage your business, otherwise, they’d run you out of business. Call the bluff of a bad customer by sacking them; you’d be better off and other bad folks will learn a lesson. Responsible behaviour can be taught.
Ultimately, what matters is for you to stay in business. But you should not do so at the mercy of blackmailers whose goal is to make life unbearable for you. We do business to make money, provide goods or services and get fulfilled. These are noble ideals worth protecting, no matter what it takes.
Weekend Spice: I’m a New Yorker, so I tell it like it is – Donald Trump
Ok folks, thanks for reading. Let’s do it again next Friday. Stay motivated.
•Ayodeji is an author, rights activist, pastor and life coach. He can be reached for
mentoring and counselling on 09059243004 (SMS and