The customer isn’t always right

I’ve talked about the importance of showing up if you want to build great customer relationships. I used my Borders experience to make that point. I’d like to take that story a step further and explain why not only showing up was important, but that I showed up to explain to the CEO of Borders why his idea – of adding just classical music – wasn’t a good idea.

It would have been very easy to agree with Borders and just take the order for classical music. However, I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do. Although I was very interested in having Borders add music, I believed that only adding classical music was a mistake. I explained to the CEO that only selling classical music would pose a challenge because it would be difficult to explain it to their customers. If Borders really wanted to sell music, then they should have the same treatment for music as they did for books.

Remember, the whole point of adding music was to increase the length of time a customer spent in a Borders store. And I believed that classical music alone would not accomplish that goal. After much discussion and several more trips, Borders agreed to add a full line of music to its two newest stores – opening in Dallas and Philadelphia – within weeks of each other.

Both stores opened with a bang. Overnight, Borders had a better selection of music than most record stores. The customers loved the idea and they significantly increased the amount of time spent in the store. After the success of adding music to those stores, Borders committed to putting a music section in all their new stores.

So the motto of the story. Customers don’t always know what they want. Borders had a glimmer of an idea, but needed help to flush it out. So never be afraid to tell a customer something they might not want to hear or when you think he/she should try a different approach.

–Barney Cohen

President, Business 360 Northwest


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