Don’t Listen To Your Clients, Really?

April 20th, 2010

“The customer is always right.” How often have we heard that expression? In fact, it’s become rule number one or an unofficial mantra for good client relations.

If that’s the case, and it is indeed true that the customer is always right, then we should probably just poll our clients and ask them what they want from us, right? Then we can simply deliver on those promises to ensure the ideal client services relationship.

Mark Cuban writes from a different perspective in his post entitled, Why You Should Never Listen to Your Customers. He says that listening Don't Listen to Your Clients, Really?solely to what the customer wants is risky and you do so at your own peril. It can create a “never ending revolving door of trying to respond to customer requests… Resources and brainpower that can be applied to ‘inventing the future’ instead are being used to catch up with features that (lock you) in the past.”

He proposes that instead of simply responding to your clients’ concerns and being reactionary, the real goal should be to anticipate what your customers are going to want and deliver it to them proactively.

“Someone is always out there who thinks they have a better idea than you have. A better solution than you have. A better or more efficient product than you have,” says Cuban.

He closes by saying that your customers can only “tell you the things that are broken and how they want to be made happy.” However, this is not something to bet the farm (or your business) on.

You still need to determine for yourself what your customers are going to need, want, and desire for tomorrow, the next day, and 20 years down the road. Harry Hoover also touches upon this point in his post entitled, “Stop Listening to Your Customers.” He writes: “You must ask the right questions of your customers and then figure out what it is that they are really saying. Your customers are smart and can provide some excellent input. It’s our job as marketers to ferret out the true meaning of that input.”

As marketing, public and client relations professionals, how are you listening to your clients and incorporating their feedback to meet their needs while balancing those of your company or agency and remaining proactive? Are you utilizing CRM systems, surveys, or social media communities, among others tools to help you get to the heart of what clients really want? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

4 Responses to “Don’t Listen To Your Clients, Really?”

  1. Harry Hoover says:

    Nice post, David. Thanks for including my comments.

  2. Great post, David. And a touchy topic, too!

    In my career, I’ve seen that clients usually fall in one of two buckets.

    1) I hired you to do what I say
    2) I hired you to tell me what to we should do

    Obviously, I think everyone prefers #2.

    I’ve always been amused by the fact that EVERYONE thinks they can be a good PR pro. Everyone reading this probably has dealt with a client who picked up the phone and cold-called a newspaper, or met a TV anchor at a cocktail party and thinks they’re best friends.

    The situation almost always leads to, “why do I need a PR agency if I can do this myself?” Needless to say, I have never really appreciated those clients.

    But the topic at hand is listening to clients. A strong pro/firm will listen to what the client wants to see and come back to them with a recommendation of the best way to handle it and use their experience and skills to remind the client who the expert is. It’s not about winning and losing, it’s about leveraging skills to give the client what they REALLY want…not just what they SAY they want.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by BurrellesLuce: Should you stop listening to your customers? New post from BurrellesLuce’s David Aloisio

  4. Harry,

    Thank you.


    I agree 100% I think it’s more about understanding the industry as a whole and leading your clients.

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