“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife."

“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.

You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.” by David MacKenzie Ogilvy

David Mackenzie Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy & Mather hit the nail on the head with this advice as today’s consumer are more sophisticated, informed, and has become increasingly skeptical. And because consumers have been bombarded with too many promotional hypes and brand promises, they have become immune to the ‘efficacy’ of these messages.

Therefore in keeping with the advice of David Ogilvy in beholding your customer as your wife, here are 5 ways we could all treat ‘her’ (consumer) better and in return earn her trust and business!

5 ways to build a lasting relationship with your customer

1. Never make promises you can’t keep.

Breaking promises

This is top in the list. Just like your wife who will be heartbroken if you do not keep your promise, your consumer will be disappointed if you break your promise. This is true regardless of products or services.

 A study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs estimates that news of bad customer service will be broadcast to more than twice as many friends, family and strangers on the internet than praise for good customer service will. Think about this for a moment, when was the last time you had a good service and you proactively talk about the experience? Now contrast that with a dreadful encounter, how many people did you tell? I bet some of us couldn’t stop telling our friends, family, acquaintances or any willing listener for that matter. We enthusiastically tell others in detail about the shop or business that cheated us and warn others never to buy from those unscrupulous people to avoid suffering similar fate! Therefore, for this reason it is always better not to promise than to promise and not deliver.

2. Don’t give customer the “I know more than you” attitude!


This is an interesting point. The way information is to be delivered should be done with care and respect. Never treat your customer with a condescending attitude. If the seller has superior knowledge and experience then any information and advice should be given with the intent to educate and to provide relevant information to assist the customer to make an informed decision.

I remember experiencing such an attitude when I purchased my computer. When I asked the sales person about certain technicality of the product, the sales person rolled up his eyes and said “Hmm…you didn’t know that?…okay, what that means is…” and he continued babbling about the specs without checking if I understood the technicality he was proudly sharing. Even when I asked, his answer was always too technical and it was clear to me he was bored with my questions. Maybe this was the 100 times someone asked him this same question! After just 5 minutes of our ‘boring’ monologue, I politely excused myself.

In a recent customer service survey conducted by McKinsey for the retail banking industry (survey conducted in Belgium, Germany and Italy) involving 2797 individuals, it is found after a positive experience, more than 85 percent of customers increased their value to the bank by purchasing more products or investing more of their assets; just as tellingly, more than 70 percent reduced their commitment when things turned sour.

Although my experience was in a different retail environment, needless to say I concur with that statistic. Who would want to buy from someone that makes them feel inferior? I never went back to that shop. The point is educating customers should be done in a more professional manner. Consumer appreciates information if it’s delivered with the right intention and always in a manner that is humble and patient.  Remember even in today’s information age, whereby we have all types of information readily accessible in the palm of our hands, we still need professional guidance in sieving through the myriad of data and finding the relevant information to make the right decision. Hence there will always be information gap and the seller that is able to fill in those information gaps with care and attention will win the customer’s heart. Remember to treat your customer like how a husband would treat his beloved wife, with care, patience and love

3.“Getting customer feedback is the golden opportunity to build loyalty!”

Golden opportunity

Marriage and committed relationships are, above all, partnerships. When the sense of partnership is lacking—when your partner is oblivious to or inconsiderate of your needs, this weakens the ties that hold you together. Similarly in building a lasting relationship with your customer, you should request for their feedback. Customer feedback is gold! Think about ways to come up with processes to enable customer to give feedback for the product and services. And should customer give feedback especially negative feedback, it is crucial that you take action and go about fixing them. Nothing is worse than asking for feedback and not doing anything to help ease the customer’s situation or grievances.

The McKinsey report also stated that one of the distinguishing features of surveyed bank’s better-performing branches lies in the ability to solve problems effectively and a willingness to emphasize the financial needs of customers over the branch’s own sales priorities. This underscores the importance of showing customers our resolve to help them in whichever way possible; even if it means temporarily placing second priority to our own sales objectives. Even if the solution is not satisfactory, any reasonable customer will appreciate the extra effort placed in handling their problems and dissatisfaction. So as to build a strong partnership with our customer, we too should always find opportunity to show our customer we care and will be there to help them solve their problems.

4. “Don’t enter a fight with your customer- no one comes out a winner.”Fighting with customer

In any relationship disagreement will surely happen and great relationships develop not from the absence of conflict, but from determining an agreeable pattern for how to resolve conflict. The cliché “your customer is always right” sometimes put the seller in a tight spot especially if the customer is the one at fault. If a customer said something racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted to you, what should you do? Would your respond in kind and issue a similar verbal attack?

The best approach to this is to never enter a fight with the customer. This is because even if customer is wrong, they still deserve to be treated with dignity and care. This is simply because of whom you are and what you represent. Being polite, calm and compose says so much of the character of the person that is being provoked!

Also importantly do not yell, cuss or engage in any name-calling. Doing that will only fuel more negative emotions which will surely clouds the clarity of what actually happened. If the other person is yelling, it becomes especially important that you don’t raise your voice so as to prevent a natural escalation of competing interests.

Being wronged doesn’t mean you have to respond in kind by being equally rude, mean or become a bully. Instead being right should translate to being polite, strong and standing firm on your ground. To respond in kind to an unreasonable customer means to be equally at fault and most of the time when that happens, the situation simply escalate into an uglier state.


If through a quick apology, you could diffuse the situation, I would humbly advise you to apologize for any of your short coming. Although the idea of waiting for the other person to apologize first seems vindicating, it’s actually a guaranteed sign of how you care more about being right than in coming to reconciliation.

However, if you know and feel that the situation is worsening, seek assistance from your colleague or supervisor. Consequently, remember the situation as clearly as possible because you will be asked questions about the situation. You will surely be required to speak about specific behaviours; so speak only to direct examples and instances of action. It’s hard for anyone to own up to a generalization and so by isolating an instance of fact, everyone can quickly see where he or she was right and wrong. This is a challenging situation that requires a balance of wit and wisdom. However in most cases even the most challenging ones, customers will find it very difficult to remain angry, rude and stubborn when you are kind, gentle and caring. As the ancient bibles says “a gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stir up anger” Proverbs 15.1

 5. “Strive for excellent service each time, every time.”service

We all know that good customer service is important. However once you get down to trying defining what goes into it; you will find that customer service may mean different things to different people across different industries. To some, good customer service is as simple as solving problems and offering solutions in an expedient manner. To others it means overall pleasantness and politeness from those who represent the front lines of the company. Even though defining what good customer service is can be difficult; bad customer service on the other hand isn’t quite as hard to define. Customers will always recognize bad customer service when it happens to them.

Additionally, according to the American Express Survey 2011, the most cringe-worthy phrases customers don’t want to hear are:

“We’re unable to answer your question. Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx to speak to a representative from xxx team.”

“We’re sorry, but we’re experiencing unusually heavy call volumes. You can hold or try back at another time.”

“Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.”

This survey shows that today’s consumer don’t have the patience to wait whenever they want support. Hence the number one rule to good customer service is promptness. Don’t make your customer wait. Unfortunately, this is a common problem, especially if the contact person have neither the authority nor the ability to resolve problems on your their own, and are thus forced to take those problems to higher levels. In the process, the organization will run the risk of alienating customers. To handle this issue, simply ensure that communication flows to the customers.

Let them know what you are trying to do and how long it takes. Meanwhile if the redress process is going to take a longer time it makes sense to provide periodic updates on what has transpired. This is important because it shows that you are reliable, sincere and working towards resolving issues and with the information shared, you are giving customer a sense of control of the situation. Now that more and more people choose to interact and share through social media for example, giving this information in bite size has never been easier. You could even ask your customer what how they prefer to receive these information and in which social media format.

I believe in building lasting relationships with our customers, we should always do everything in our power to keep our consumers informed, on the move, and above all happy. By adopting some of these ideas here, i hope you’ll build a reliable reputation and solid relationships with your all your key customers. Happy selling!

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