The Customer Is Always Right

There are generally two different types of customer that I see. The ones who don’t know what they’re doing and admit it, and the ones who don’t know what they’re doing but don’t admit it.

The former are easy. They put their hands up and accept that they were responsible through ignorance. This is good. It means I know when I tell them what went wrong and how they can avoid it in future that they are actually listening to me. Some of them even take notes. This is good.

The latter are deadly. In some cases, they take their ignorance to a different level, and instead believe that they already have all the answers. They frequently cite technobabble in support of what they were doing, sometimes getting terms wrong, using them in the wrong way, or just plain making stuff up.

These are the most difficult.

I’ve learned to be extremely tactful in my business dealings with customers. For this kind, I invariably nod and agree with what they were saying, bearing in mind the old axiom that is the subject of this post. I don’t like to show people up. I don’t want to embarrass them by calling bullshit on something they’ve just said. After all, they’re paying my wages.

It’s probably true of any “maintenance” profession though. I’m sure when I’ve had plumbers and other technical people around I’ve said some nonsense and they’ve agreed with it. After all, we sometimes just want to make conversation, or pretend we know what’s going on. In some ways, by doing that we like to think that by showing we know what’s going on, we will be able to tell if there’s the potential of a rip-off in the pipeline.

So with that in mind, that also wants to make me leave my customers alone, because I’ve been in their shoes at some point. Also, by me acknowledging to them that they know something about the subject, it makes them think that I will be kind to them, and not try to invent problems that aren’t actually there. Which, as we all know, is what car mechanics do…

I probably go out of my way though to avoid this impression. I’m constantly worried that my customer is going to think I’m sitting there time-wasting to run up the clock, or when I’m ordering parts that I’m going to massively overcharge for it. So much so that I reckon I under-charge. My labour is cheaper than anyone in town by a long way. Parts, I only ever add a few quid.

Maybe I’m just not ruthless enough to run a business…

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