You know the old adage "The customer is always right."
Sometime they're not.
It doesn't matter whether you sell cupcakes, or you're trying to recruit members for your church, attracting (and keeping) the right customers is more important than pleasing a small group of complainers.
Before you start sputtering about poor customer service, hear me out. I hate bad service as much as anyone, probably more since I'm in the business of improving it.
But that doesn't mean you need to rework your whole operational model for the people who complain.
The question every leader needs to ask themselves is this: Do I want to improve life for my best customers? Or do I want to spend my time responding to the needs of my worst customers?
If you only listen to the loudest voices, you wind up becoming very reactive to a small, not representative group of unhappy people.
On the flip side, when you improve life for your best customers, you elevate your position in the market.
Here's why: customers who are in bad circumstances themselves tend to complain more. They're under lots of pressure and they pass it on to you.
It happens in the business to business market, and it also happens in the consumer market. The one time customer comes in with all the complaints, but the loyal bigger volume customer is the one who doesn't say anything.
How do you stay in front of the complaining curve?
Below are three tips to help you improve service for your best customers. Word of warning, these are counter intuitive to the way most people think.
But I promise you, they work.
1. Do double time on the biggies.
For every minute you spend listening to complaints from a small customer, double that time and ask questions of your big customers. What are their goals and how do they plan to get there? Make a list of your top 10 customers and come up with at least five ways you can help them get better.
1. Don't let today's circumstances dominate your thinking.
Customers will tell you what they need today, but you want to be thinking about how you can improve their lives in the future. Five years ago, nobody said, "I need to watch a movie on my phone." Nobody said they wanted a wedding cake made out of cupcakes either. But now both are must have items, it's all the rage.
Marketing guru Seth Godin says, "Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win."
If you only respond to what people say they want today, you'll become a commodity. But if you will think about how you can make their lives or businesses better in the future, you'll differentiate yourself.
1. Don't confuse value with price
The reason customers say they want a lower price is because you haven't demonstrated that your value is any different from anyone else's. For example, if all you do is provide a tax return, that's a commodity. But if you provide valuable financial advice that helps them be more successful, that's something altogether different. Focus on value, not price.
Customers are a gift, and we want to be grateful to all the customers who do business with us. But the ones we want to pay the most attention to are the ones who are going to help us grow.
Business strategist Lisa Earle McLeod specializes in sales force and leadership development. She is author of "The Triangle of Truth," a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book.