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Can the Customer Be Wrong? Why Perceptions Aren't Everything

Can the Customer Be Wrong? Why Perceptions Aren't Everything

Sometimes perceptions aren't everything. We had some downtime on our CentraStage platform recently, and as a result I fielded a number of customer calls, ranging from concerned to angry. Most of those from the latter group consistently maintained that platform performance had been awful and that this was a regular occurrence. Now any downtime is unacceptable, and I am quick to recognize this and apologize whenever we let a customer down, but at the same time I am not an unquestioning subscriber to the customer is always right mantra. There are times when the heat of the moment can distort perceptions, and as a business owner, supplier, consumer or spectator, it's important to recognize this and not make decisions based on potentially skewed data.

Operating from the cloud means our perceived and actual performance can vary on an individual customer basis. When assessing performance of remote takeover or network audit performance we're dependent on the state of their own and their clients' networks. In order to resolve specific client issues we have to consider both their perception as well as what the overall numbers are telling us. Making large scale platform changes because one client has an issue should not be the first port of call if all other clients aren't having the same problems. Not only could it spread the problem, it's also unlikely to be the cause.

As a specialist, and hopefully expert, in your chosen field it's important to recognize when perceptions are isolated or broadly shared amongst your customers. Your job is to fix the problem and change their perception, but not to assume that their analysis of the situation is correct. As a consumer of goods and services myself, and a product manager for many years, I am used to invoking the "customer is always right", or "perceptions are everything" clause. On a case by case base it certainly holds water, but making decisions that affect thousands of customers needs to be based on empirical data to avoid compounding the problem.

This approach applies whether you're an IT engineer, salesman or doctor. Listen to customer base, draw on your experience and apply your knowledge. Perceptions are indeed important, just don't assume they're everything.

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