The Customer is Always Right

The “customer is always right” is a typical business saying. In some ways the customer is always right because they choose whether to buy your software or not. But are they always right?

I’ve been watching a lot of the television show called House M.D. It is not your typical run of the mill evening drama. It features a doctor called Gregory House who uses his un-conventional style to solve diagnostic medical cases.

“Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) – Department Head: Department of Diagnostic Medicine. The show’s protagonist, Dr. Gregory House is a maverick diagnostician with a double specialty in infectious disease and nephrology. Dr. House is seemingly lacking in bedside manner and prefers to avoid direct contact with his patients whenever possible. Due to an infarction in his right thigh, House lost a substantial portion of the muscle in his upper leg and must use a cane to assist with walking. As a result, House is also forced to deal with constant physical pain, which he manages through a dependency on the prescription pain medication Vicodin. Although his behavior can border on antisocial or misanthropic, House is viewed as a maverick physician whose unconventional thinking and excellent instincts have afforded him a great deal of respect and an unusual level of tolerance from his colleagues and the medical world.” –

One of the sayings House has is that “everyone lies”. Often he proves this in the show by showing the dark side of seemingly innocent character who tries to hide information from the doctors they feel is irrelevant. Often times that information is just what House needs to solve the case.

I would not go as far as to say that I believe everyone lies but I would say that most people lie. In particular, customers lie. Often the lies are more subtle like in the show. Customers try to protect themselves by hiding information they feel is irrelevant, such as un-related changes to the system that they may not be aware effect your software. They also feed you disinformation based on how they understand your software works.

Every computer savvy user gets frustrated when you call tech support for your DSL line and you have to go through a huge list of steps to prove the problem is exactly what you told them it was. Why do you have to go through this? Because you lie! The support process requires that they can verify you have diagnosed the problem properly. This requires that you follow a long, boring series of baby steps.

So how should we handle customers that lie? We need to realize that they lie and walk them through each step. If they say “your software crashes”, walk them through the process and verify the steps they took to cause the problem. If they say, “nothing has changed in the configuration”, verify this for yourself. Something could have change without them realizing it.

Remember to always be respectful. Often customers lie without knowing it. You need to keep them happy.

The customer is always right but the customer lies.