Probably the most popular phrase in the world of customer service, maybe even the whole business world, is the famous The customer is always right.

It doesn’t actually mean they’re always right, but it’s the best approach and the way to treat your customers. If they want a pickle, give ‘em the pickle as Bob Farrell would say. An extra effort in making a customer happy is the way businesses win their customers’ loyalty.
However, when it comes to feedback and requests that are directly related to the product, would you still say that the customer is always right? Do you think every customer understands the problem and knows the best way to fix it?

Short answer: No.

Customers are usually poor judges and do not understand the bigger picture behind your vision. Saying “No” is often a necessity in order to keep all your customers happy and provide them with what they actually need. When building product’s solution, you have to bear in mind that the customer is mostly wrong.

It’s Your Job to Solve the Problem

It is always tempting when we see customers feedback and want to head in the direction they lead us. They know and experience the problem, they are supposed to know the best way to fix it, right? Not really.

There are numerous articles explaining how Steve Jobs did not listen to Apple’s customers. That’s not entirely true. The plain truth is that Steve Jobs did actually consider all the feedback Apple’s products got from their customers, but he strongly believed that innovation and the right solutions should come from the company, not the customer. He was selective about what feedback is valuable. Those that point out to a certain problem are considered, but the solution must always come from the company.

Customers might know the problem, but it is highly unlikely that they will have the full grasp of everything that’s going on behind the product creation and it is your responsibility to think of the best possible solution to that issue.

Yes. Customers are often right when they notice a problem and speak about it. However, the solution should be provided by the company. Henry Ford has observed that people have asked for faster horses. The customers were right – there was a need for a faster transportation, but a faster horse was not a viable solution. A car was.

It is crucial not to ignore any feedback you get. First of all, someone has devoted a time and effort to contact you, notice the problem and tell you about it. Their feedback can turn out to be an eye-opener on an issue many more customers are struggling with.

Your job is to take that feedback into consideration and try to find the best possible solution. You have the vision, you need to think of tomorrow, not today.

Where paths diverge is in developing with the best, most innovative solution. How do you build the solution of tomorrow around feedback that only consists of the ideas of today?

Yes, customers are amazing at telling what’s wrong with your product or a service. On the other hand, they are awful at telling you what do you need to do about it.

We can easily conclude that the customer is almost always wrong and that they’ll always ask for a faster horse instead of the innovation. It’s not easy to say “No” to a large crowd, but it’s more often than not a necessity.

Great products start with saying no, even when the suggested solution is not a bad one. There will always be things people want, feature that’s missing or a suggestion for an innovation. You cannot please everyone and customize the product to fit everyone’s needs.

Stop pleasing people. It ruins the product. Recognize the suggestions that fit your vision and throw away the rest. Get used to saying “No.” It’s not easy. You might lose many good customers, but your vision is to have even more great customers. Customers may not like it, but “No” is certainly not the worst thing they can hear. Learn to say it and think about why it’s important.

How to Tell a Customer No

Saying no is not just a skill for customer support, but a great thing you should learn to do in your life. It takes practice. Pay attention to the following things:

  • Realize that “yes” can be selfish. You should know about a huge number of people out there who are building or changing their product only because they do not know to say no. Yes to one customer may be a huge no to all other customers, it can come off as a selfish gesture. “Why does he get to have it and I don’t?” No is far from selfish, and it is often far more selfless than yes.
  • “No” sounds better with understanding. It’s not easy to create a positive situation when a customer doesn’t get what he wanted in the first place. However, not providing a true reason is even worse. When you apply for a job and get rejected, you’d rather hear any feedback rather than being ghosted by the company. The same applies when talking with customers. Explain your no, show some effort and empathy.
  • Give recommendations when appropriate. Don’t be afraid to mention or recommend a company that has a feature you do not plan to add to your product. So what if they’re a competitor, it is perceived as a brave remark and it is highly likely that customer will remain loyal rather than changing a provider for a single feature.
  • Set clear expectations. Underpromise and overdeliver. Be cautious when promising a feature when even you are not completely sure you’ll be able to deliver. Creating a hype about an update or an innovation is one thing, having a customer coming every week asking about the thing you promised is a whole other thing and it does not serve either side.
  • Treat every “No” like the first one of the day. Don’t lose empathy even after hundreds of similar requests. Treat every question like it’s the first one you got. Make them feel like their question or suggestion is a contribution to the company and your product even if you do not even consider it. Appreciation is free and means a lot.
  • Don’t lose your curiosity. Repetitive requests can lead to you paying less attention to those requests. Don’t. Always ask questions, find out the reason why they need it and you might provide them with the thing they need even though it’s not the thing they’ve asked for in the first place.

Use “No” to Keep Your Competitive Edge

Don’t forget about what your customers need, that is a key thing that makes a product great and ahead of the competition

Avoid the trap of copying your competition to please everyone. Finding the right solution requires you to repeat no many times before you can finally say a firm yes