Is the customer always right?

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends” – Walt Disney  

What do you think?  Is the customer ALWAYS right?  Many pundits claim this as a basic tenet of business.  Trainers drill into high customer contact people (HCCPs), the ones that actually get to deal with customers, the idea that the customer is to be taken care of.  The ‘customer is always right’.  The intention is good, to provide excellent customer service and satisfy the customer.  

The problem with this belief is the customer isn’t always right. Many customers think they are the expert.  Thanks to the Google, some patients now come to their doctor with their symptoms, the diagnosis, and the treatment.  They think they are the doctor.  This can be dangerous in the health care industry when the patient thinks they are the expert.  I have experienced a version of this with some clients.  They come to me and say, “Mary is a problem, you need to fix her, she needs some assertiveness training.”  They have made the diagnosis and supplied the remedy.  Often, the real problem is the manager, not Mary, and I have to push back and reframe the work to be done.   

Secondly, you don’t want every customer.  Some customers are not the kind of customer you designed your business for. Therefore, they are not a ‘good’ customer.  The marketing saying is, “Not all meat is good meat.”  And this applies to customers.  It doesn’t mean the customer is ‘bad’.  Just that this particular customer is a bad fit you’re your business.  High maintenance customers demand Tiffany level service and want to pay Walmart prices.   These customers drain your resources and frustrate your employees.  They will never be satisfied.  Get rid of them!  

Why is it important to know who you want to help?  To know who your ideal customer is.  There are all kinds of customers out there.  Good ones, bad ones, and just plain average ones.  The definition of these categories depends on you and what you are selling.  If you are selling cheap stuff, bargain basement deals, you will attract customers of like mind.  If you are selling an illusive dream, a lifestyle of the rich and famous, you will attract similar types.  Build your product around the kind of customer you want to serve.  


“The ability to bounce back, to recover from a stressful event”

Resilience is your ability to adapt well and recover quickly after stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy. If you have a resilient disposition, you are better able to maintain poise and a healthy level of physical and psychological wellness in the face of life’s challenges. If you’re less resilient, you’re more likely to dwell on problems, feel overwhelmed, use unhealthy coping tactics to handle stress, and develop anxiety and depression.

The skills of resilience. The positive psychology movement of the past 20 years has opened research on happiness, well-being, and resilience. You can develop resilience by mastering your stories. Become more open minded. Train your attention on the more-positive aspects of your life. You can use purposeful, trained attention to decrease negative thoughts in your mind and bring greater focus on the most meaningful aspect of an experience.

The US Army has adopted the core tenants of positive psychology to establish the Master Resilience Training Program. They have put some 55,000 soldiers through it. The Army Resilience training focuses on; emotional, cognitive, mental, physical, and spiritual resilience. Training in these areas can improve your resiliency, enhance your quality of life, and decrease your stress and anxiety by teaching you to view life’s inevitable challenges as opportunities. See the Army poster below: 

The good news is that these same resiliency skills apply to all of us.

Learning the ABCs of how we interpret experiences and how that shapes our thinking and feelings is a foundational resilience skill. 

Why is it important to build your resilience? Being in the arena, out there in the workforce, you need to be both ready and resilient.  Ready to step up and do your job, and resilient enough to bounce back from obstacles and challenges that you will inevitably face. Lost productivity from stress and absenteeism is in the billions of dollars each year. A healthy, productive workforce is one that is both ready and resilient. Think about a recent challenge your company faced. If you came through it, stronger than ever, chances are, the whole group is stronger and healthier. Resilience can be contagious; Army units win medals and whole companies win awards. Seeing others jump in and tackle tough challenges is inspiring. And resiliency is contagious.

Where Are You Smart?

“Some people can fix machines, some fix people, and some can play music.” 

Why are some people good at reading people, and other’s at reading the woods and terrain? According to a Howard Gardner, ‘intelligence’ or IQ, is not just one factor, a number that defines how smart you are. He has proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. Although it’s controversial, I like this approach. We all have different strengths and they are extremely important in how we learn and spend our life. Gardner claims there are eight distinct modalities or forms of intelligence*. The eight modalities are pictured below: 

Howard Gardner – He believes people have 8 different modalities of intelligence

So if you have long noticed that you live for your Friday night gig at the local bar playing the piano, or you long for your trips up North to the cabin and days out in the Boundary Waters, you may just have a Musical or Naturalistic form of intelligence. Consider the things you have done well in your life, the things that you were attracted to and enjoyed doing. These may well be your two or three ‘intelligences’. Consider how you can expand the use them in your life. 

Frames of Mind: the Theory of Multiple Intelligences”, Howard Gardner, 1986. 
Why is it important to know where you are smart? How about great life satisfaction and purpose. Too many people slave away at a job they don’t like, never have liked, and don’t do a very good job at it to boot. Knowing your strengths, the modalities that you excel at, enables you to naturally seek out and find meaningful work that comes naturally to you. Not everyone can put together a bookcase, explain snow tracks to a granddaughter, and not everyone can write a sonnet. Celebrate what you can do and do it with joy.

Know Thyself — And Nothing In Excess

Inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi”, Greek saying

Long before the Google and Twitter feeds, the Greeks had inscriptions on their Temples giving their citizens sage advice.  I have long appreciated the two-part message of the Apollo Temple, to “know thyself” and “nothing in excess”. They seem like simple, admonishments, however, I think of them as good rules to follow. Know thyself. Many people get into trouble with other people because they do not understand themselves. They have huge blind spots. They consider themselves God’s gift to management, and they leave a trail of bodies behind them, oblivious to the impact they have on others. Just getting a recalcitrant to realize that they have a problem is 80% of the deal. Then they are ready and motivated to do something about it. 

Nothing in excess. Gluttony can take many forms, and moderation is a good antidote to this sin. You can exercise too much, be too perfect, drink too much, or be overly controlled. Most good traits and virtues can be overdone. Stress is a good example. If you are bored, you are not getting enough variety, challenge, and stress in your life. If you are panicked, and dealing with chronic stress that is unrelenting, you are hurting yourself. Your body and mind will pay the price for this unresolved stress response.  You want to have just the right amount of stress to be in the “zone” humming along, spending your days comfortably engaged. 

The stress level diagram below shows the relationship between performance and stress levels. 

The Stress Response Curve – we all need a little stress in our life   

Why is it important to be self-aware and moderate in our habits? Being self-aware means you are more responsible and accountable. You don’t go around blaming others for your problems, and you don’t see yourself as a ‘victim’. Self-awareness is the key to other awareness and stronger connections with others. And moderation is a good virtue to follow. How many steaks do you need in a day? How much do you need to be happy? 

A Way to Think About Time

Learn from the past, live in the present, and create a compelling future.”  NLP saying

We all have a timeline.  Where we were born, grew up, went to school, and then work.  And we have a story about our life.  Think about your timeline and the significant events you had on it.  The problem lies in the fact that for many of us we get stuck or spend way too much time either thinking about the past or worrying about some event in the future.  And some unfortunates do both. 
If you want to be sad, spend time dwelling on past events and grievances, bad things that happened to you.  If you enjoy a little anxiety, worry about future events, all the things that could go wrong and how it will affect you.  If you want to be healthy and happier, more resilient, develop this belief about time …” learn from the past, live in the present, and create a compelling future for yourself”.   
The best thing you can do about the past is learn from it.  After Action Reports are a great tool for processing events in the past.  The three report questions, “What happened?”  What did you learn from it? And, “What will you do differently?”  Creative people make many mistakes, and they learn from each one.  Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed, just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.”  The best thing you can do about the past challenges is to learn from them. 
And, as for the future, create a compelling one for yourself.  Much better than worrying about things that haven’t happened.  There is a reason why Zebra’s don’t have ulcers.  There is even a great book by that title, I recommend it. 

So, it’s best to live in the present.  How do you do it?  A favorite remedy of mine, during the day, I do a number of one-minute meditations.  I take three normal breadths, then three deep breaths, and then three normal breaths.  Do that twice and in a minute, you can change your state.  I have lowered my blood pressure and increased blood oxygen level by doing this simple relaxation technique.  Focusing on your breathing is a good way to be present, aware. 

Living in the present is a healthy way to go through life.

Why is it important to go through life in the present?  There are many reasons why it’s healthy and better for you to live in the present.  When you think about it, that’s where we are, moment by moment.  Being aware of that, savoring each moment and not worrying about things that happened to you long ago or worrying about things that might happen in the future, you free your mind and body to experience each moment.  As Mary Oliver asks us in “The Summer Day”, ‘Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”’