I was thinking about this question recently when talking to the owner of a local pizza parlor. The question of whether you have to be nice to your customers is one that almost every internet marketer needs to answer at one point or another. After all, there is the old saying that the customer is always right. On the other hand, you also need to balance your own business needs against this axiom.
The Pizza Parlor
Let me explain what I mean by using an analogy from my local pizza place. They’ve had a special going for a while where you can get a personal pan pizza with a can of soda for $5. I really didn’t want the soda anyway because I had some at home, but since the price included it, I wanted to get the soda which was coming to me.
Anyway, they didn’t have any diet soda in a can. All they had in diet was glass bottles (same amount of soda, but in a glass bottle instead of a can). I asked the guy to give me the bottle instead. He said I’d have to pay an extra $1 for the privilege.
At first, I felt like the guy was being a real jerk about it and I argued with him quite a bit, saying that the bottle had the same amount in it as the can. I pointed out that I’d been a steady customer for a while and that it would be worth his while to keep me happy rather than be a jerk about it. Turns out though that the bottles cost him an extra $8 per case for some bizarre reason and so he wanted to charge more for getting the bottle instead of the can to recoup his loses.
Is It Worth Getting a Customer Angry?
The owner of the pizza parlor told me that he had to protect his bottom line even though he’d like to be nice to a regular customer. Now one could see this either way – on the one hand, one could consider this as being just a dollar to make a regular customer happy. On the other hand, even that dollar can make or break him on making a profit.
The Choice for Internet Marketers
Now, my local pizza parlor aside, the fact remains that we as internet marketers do have a valuable lesson to learn from this. Do we need to be nice to customers even when it means losing money? The question is one that makes a big difference for most of us because often the problem is about dealing with an irate customer demanding a refund for a product you sold them.
I think the question of whether you have to be nice to customers is really a matter of math. You need to take into account the fact that one the one hand, your customers may be irate and even tell their friends and in extreme cases, create websites devoted to dragging you down. On the other hand, you do need to consider the fact that at a certain point, you have to be willing to say no in order to protect your bottom line.
One Final Point
I should make one final point here though. While you don’t necessarily have to be “nice” to customers who are trying to take advantage of you in the sense of giving away the store, you should always be diplomatic to them and never scream or berate them for what they ask for. At most, you should be prepared to hang up on them if the need arises.