The customer is always right…

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of articles in the design world that discuss different topics in the process of what we do.  Interestingly enough, for me the discussions all boil down to a universal point about service – that the customer is always right.

Those of us in the design business provide professional services to various types of clients and when it comes to service we have to remember that it includes specifically customer service as well.  I’ve certainly met designers who seem to be  a bit full of themselves – the artiste in all of us – who do not seem to treat their clients like valued customers.  Almost in any industry we see this phenomenon where the service provider acts as if the client is lucky to have procured such genius talent.  I suppose it all depends on the status and expectations of both parties involved.

I am one who still believes in good old-fashioned customer service to all, no matter the status or position of the client.  You can be a mom and pop shop or a giant conglomerate, but I would expect a professional to always be a professional.  It is the same principle the other way around as well.  I happen to be a solo freelancer amongst the many giant advertising agencies that exist, but I am a design professional nevertheless who expects to be treated with respect, just as the client does.

Amongst designers there is often talk of how a client seems to pick the one design out of three that is the least aesthetically pleasing, effective or preferred by the designer.  Out of such discussions I always wonder why a designer would even present something less desired to the client.  Certainly there might be preferences in style, but every option presented should be a viable option.  Perhaps designers need to remember that they should spend more time on all their designs, not just the first one that they hope the client will choose.  I think designers miss the point of offering multiple options in design, if they are going to purposely slant their work towards a particular composition.

Some designers chuckle at their clients’ decisions, assuming them to be void of artistic appreciation or the like.  I feel it is the fault of the designers for not educating their clients about what they are presenting and why.  Your clients are not stupid or silly, you are just not doing your job and feeling content to pat yourself on the back for no reason instead.  Stop being so arrogant is what I say…

It is also important to note that a client needs to understand what services they are paying for.  Certainly the budget of a giant conglomerate might command a different product altogether, so a client need not compare directly to another project assuming that it is a comparison of quality.  We all know that you get what you pay for.

I do believe in the old adage of the customer is always right – if understood in the correct way.  Designers often face the situation of a client adamantly wanting something that seems contrary or detrimental to their goals for the project.  Often, I have found that the cause is usually bad communication.  As a designer, I often remind myself that the client has the full business knowledge of their field and has certain goals in mind.  My job is to provide solutions from my understanding of their goals given my skills and professional expertise.

When there is disagreement, it often helps to understand the reasons behind the conclusions founded.  Perhaps the designer needs to present more clearly the pros and cons of what is affected by a particular choice.  Or maybe the client needs to provide some insight on their business goals, thus helping in resolving a debate.  Communication is definitely key in truly understanding the issue at hand.  Ultimately the client has paid for a particular service and will expect it to be done the way they want.  Note that the professional always has the choice to pull out if they truly are at odds with the situation.  Maybe a request is considered unethical to the professional and they don’t want to be involved…

I believe the customer is always right when it comes to what they want – what path to take to come up with the solution is certainly up for discussion.  Put yourself into your consumer shoes for a minute and remember that every person has quirks and preferences, for whatever reason.  As long as the consequences are understood, it is their choice to walk that particular path.  It does not mean that it is the best choice for every situation, but it can be considering the constraints and particular needs of the situation  In the end, the customer is always right…

Reference reading:
The Customer Is Always Right, Well Sort of…
Ideasonideas.com – The customer is always right…
Top Five Reasons “The Customer is Always Right” is Wrong