THE GOLDEN RULE: Is the customer always right?

SHARE   |   Sunday, 15 February 2015   |   By Nelson Letshwene

Steve Jobs is famed to have said, the customer does not know what they want, so how can they be right. You create something wonderful, show it to the customer, and then they will want it. He seems to have been proven right with his creations.
Not everyone who tried that method was successful. The Ford Motor company created a disaster of a car in the late fifties when they introduced the Edsel model. Nobody wanted it, so it failed. Both companies tried to dictate to customers. One was successful and one failed. The Ford Motor company carried extensive research before they launched the Edsel, and still they failed. Apple did not carry out extensive research. What was guiding them?
When does intuition and luck come into business?  If we compare these two companies, they were both re-inventing the wheel. The customer already knew what a car was and what they were expecting from a car. When you read the story of the Edsel and how it failed, it seemed that it was a departure from the norm, but going backwards, not going forward. It seems that the creators of the Edsel at the Ford Motor corporation were trying to be different and unique for difference and uniqueness' sake. There was no real reason for them to depart from the norm, just to be unique. John Brooks writes in his book, Business Adventures about the Ford Motor company: "The obvious point of the Edsel's story is the defeat of a giant motor company, but what is just as surprising is that the giant did not come apart, or even get seriously hurt in the fall, and neither did the majority of the people who went down with him"
Apple products are successful because they were a departure from the norm, but with increased functionality, and therefore are going forward, not backwards. Steve Jobs took a normal cellphone and turned it into a business machine with increased functionality without increasing its size.
Even though it is said that you should not re-invent the wheel, the wheel can be improved all the time to increase functionality. We have moved from huge wooden ox-wagon wheels with spokes, to the sleek low profile self-inflating wheel of our generation.
All these to teach us that as long as business is improving our lives, the customer will let them be right. All businesses, including governments, need to work hard at improving their processes and offerings. The customer will pay as long as they feel they are getting value for money.
Any investment that is meant to bring you money, is supposed to give value to whomever gives you the money. As an investor you have to interrogate your own investments. Are you invested in companies that improve people's lives. The money that you put down as an investment to bring you financial returns, what is it involved in?
Would you yourself consume the products and services that you expect your customers to consume in exchange for their money? Or do you just want their money?
The idea of conscious investing and conscious business is the only idea that will take us to the future. As long as businesses continue to dump junk onto other people, we will not make progress as a planetary society. Yes, you can re-invent the wheel, as long as you are improving it. And yes the customer is always right, especially if you want them to give you their money. To your success. Follow the blog on or follow me on twitter @101silverline

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