Measurement: The customer is right, even if he’s wrong

Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

THREE people were visiting and viewing the Grand Canyon—an artist, a priest, and a farmer. As they stood on the edge of that massive abyss, each one responded with different views. The artist said: “Wow, what a beautiful scene to paint!” The priest exclaimed: “What a wonderful example of the handiwork of God!”

The farmer mused: “What a terrible place to lose a cow!”

Depending on where you come from, the perspective would be essentially and understandably different. If you’re a carpenter, every protruding nail is a problem that needs to be hammered down. If you’re a legislator, everything becomes a source of pork barrel.

That should not be a problem as long as you’re not doing something illegal and immoral.

The point here is that—you have to first discover its value so that whatever action you take, it becomes useful to your boss, the customers, and the general public.

You can only do that if you do measurement. If you decide to quantify something—like employee turnover rate, absenteeism rate, or even the number of employees who attended training programs—the facts and figures, no matter how accurate they are, would mean nothing until they are tied to a strategic objective.

A declaration of anything and reduced to numbers is nothing unless it can be viewed over a reasonable number of time and related, no matter how remote—to the company’s mission and vision statements.

Now, how do you measure something? First, you’ve to come up with an effective measurement system covering six major categories: cost, time, volume, delivery, quality, and customer reaction. Even if you’ve already satisfied the first five and still—the customer feels there are a lot of things to be done, then you’ve no recourse but to go back to your drawing board.

But first, you’ve to go talk to the customer to find out more about his complaint, if he cares to talk about it. Many times, they simply don’t know what they need in the first place—until you offer something different that may have resulted after countless meetings with all possible stakeholders, including in-laws and bystanders.

True enough. Dave Barry says: “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”

Typically, the most important category of any measurement is perception—that one single component that you cannot afford to ignore, even if the customer is clearly damn wrong. In the first place, how can you argue with someone who buys (or at least making a fake, but a proficient attempt to patronize) your product or service? The only thing that you can do is to remain calm and be professional every step of the way.

After all, rejection is a contributing factor in the success of many millionaires around the world. In my case, rejection accounts for nearly 80 per cent of my personal triumph since time immemorial. Ask my puppy crushes in high school and romantic interests in college; and you’ll know the tremendous amount of their losses, if you care to visit their Facebook pages.

Now that I’m older, I tend to forgive them for ignoring me, and I feel vindicated when I see their profile photos. When photographs capture decades of irreversible complacency that also manifests a good display of white hair of aging over the counter of our past dreams, still—I will be ready to buy them cans of Sustagen Premium.

Clearly, measurement of customer concern is anything. Quite often a change in one metric (like prioritizing low cost over high quality) is the result of customer orientation. This is where analytics must come into play. It can help management to use measurement to improve customer patronage. When the market dictates that a good product quality can be sold in sachet, then so be it. The customer is always right, even if he is wrong.

We can see from market surveys that reveal this type of ignorance, even among moneyed people, 90 percent of whom, if you care to measure their intelligence level, would not hesitate to identify W. Edwards Deming as a premium brand of bacon.

We’ll, I’m joking again. That’s right. More than one third of those who say they’re willing to buy your proposal, could not—in all honesty identify the man who invented the solar battery.

What I’m saying is—even if the customer is wrong, he is right all the time, as long as he continuously buy your product or service. In the end, that’s all what it matters.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.


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