23 October 2019

Client is King. Really?

By Xavier Perrin (xperrin@xp-consulting.fr)

I often read posts on professional social networks which recall us that "Client is King" or "Client is the Boss". Most of the comments describe situations where it was missed to serve the client as a king, which is considered as a scandal.

I'm always very annoyed by such messages.

Indeed, it is relevant to send such messages for recalling that the customer can choose to look elsewhere. However, I do not agree to share that rhetoric.

In fact, the boss, or the King, is who decides. Client is the one who pays. Thus, saying that the boss is the client means that, as s/he is the one who pays, s/he is the one who decides what has to be done! Peddling such a message is simply wrong and it favors behaviors which are harmful for the company. Saying "client is King" favors short term actions and creates unnecessary expenses which aims to compensate deficient processes or even poor strategies. We focus our energy and resources for satisfying one customer immediately. But we neglect to stand back for defining how to satisfy all customers every time, and for implementing the processes and organization to do it.

Haw many companies pride itself of their nice customer service level while lamenting about huge extra-freight costs? What about factories where people spend their time to reschedule production, even when it already started, for delivering one customer (who is obviously right to expect on-time delivery), certainly because "client is the King", but mainly because it has been neglected to anticipate the procurement of right materials, and to implement the required resources for "normally" delivering on-time.

It is the role of the boss (The one who decides) to lead her/his teams for creating the conditions for the better service for all the clients in accordance with the mission and the goals of her/his business. Moreover, it is her/his primary responsibility to look far beyond current operations and to answer the following questions:

  • How are we perceived by our clients?
  • How are we perceived by the society and the planet?
  • In what do we have to excel at? What kind of organization, which process should we have to implement?
  • How can we improve continuously? Which skills, know-hows, technologies should we develop?
  • How are we perceived by our shareholders and financiers?

Not forgetting that a company which is not able to reach its financial targets is, in the medium range, a company which is unable to serve its clients correctly.

Definitively, the King isn't the client! To quote my friend and famous consultant René Colin: « Some say that we should never say "no" to a client. I say that we should do our best for being able to always say "yes"! »

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