You can’t please everyone

We all serve a customer that we want to please.  You might be a parent making nutritious meals that you hope your kids will like, or an entrepeneur with a brand new app that has just been released to the market.

Because we want to please everyone, all of the time, we get headaches.

A few years ago Seth Godin wrote about how if you understand the doublings, you will realise that trying to achieve perfection is nice, but none of us can afford it.

He said that to please 90% of your customers, all you’ll need to do is the usual thing.

But, as a result of the doubling effect, to please half of the remaining 10%, it’s going to take twice as much effort.  Furthermore, you’ll need to work twice as hard to please another 5%, then twice as hard again to please half of the remaining 5%, and so on.

So let’s put this another way. Imagine there are 1000 customers you are trying to serve, and to please 90% of them is going to require a hypothetical 100 units of effort.  (Units could be time, money, marketing, customer service handholding, etc)

Happy Customers Unhappy Customers Units of effort
900 100 100
950 50 200
975 25 400
987 13 800

Consequently, to go from pleasing 90% of your customers to almost 99% ( a 10% increase) requires an insane 700% increase in effort.

So what can you do about unhappy customers when you can’t afford to expend the energy, time or money to please all of them?

  1. Apologise
  2. Provide them with a discount or a refund
  3. Offer a generous coupon code for their next purchase
  4. Accept responsibility for the problem, and apologise again

I put apologise in the list twice, because often that’s all that is needed to disarm the most prickly or unhappy customer.  Do so willingly and often and you can quickly resolve most issues. Learning to take a pause before responding to an upset customer is also effective.

In contrast, many of your competitors are busy trying to blame the postal system, the courier company, the warehousing company, or staffing problems, or just plain ignoring customer complaints.

Everyone has their own world view, and because of this, no matter how hard you try, there are still going to be some customers that you just can’t please.

Furthermore, due to the doubling effect, trying to satisfy them is going to take up a disproportionate amount of resources that you would be better off using elsewhere.  

Maybe for those people, the best option is to give them a full refund (even if the product is opened or the service has been used) and wish them well on their way.