Who has ever seen the following “Rules of Engagement?”

Rule Number One: The customer is always right.
Rule Number Two: When the customer is wrong, refer to Rule Number One.

While I understand the sentiment portrayed, I reject the nature of the subservience that this saying has. It rejects the notion of building business relationships that are key to business success.

As a supplier our goal should be to develop a relationship with our customers that allows a trading of ideas. Only through this type of Customer/Supplier relationship will our customers flourish and grow and only through that growth can we expect to grow. The principal of synergies has been exhibited and written about many times and continues to show that two people working together is better than one person working alone. My experience tells me that how we are perceived by our customers and therefore treated by our customers tell us a lot about the potential of an organisation to succeed.

Consider the scenario of meeting a customer for the first time. What do you bring to that meeting? Is it the products and services? Is it your reputation? Are these unique to your company? I believe the missing ingredients here is the development of trust through a business relationship. If your Product/Service is unique, then the customer will buy from you, but in these days, uniqueness has a lifespan. If you have abused your trust, the customer will drop you as soon as an alternative is available. However, if you have developed your relationship with your customer, if you understand their needs and requirements, if you can help them achieve their target and goals, even if it is not the products/services you offer, the trust you have developed and the loyalty you have shown your customer will be rewarded.

I have found that dealing with customers is an exhilarating experience if your mindset is right and you adhere to the principal of no surprises. As a supplier you need to walk in your customers shoes. You need to understand the difficulties that your customers have and how you can help to overcome these difficulties. In short it is about building trust so that you customer knows you are interested in the success of their business. You want to be the first person your customer turns to when they needs a solution to an exiting problem. Trust is a great responsibility which is difficult to build and easy to loose, so be true to yourself and your organisation in all that you do and say.

Sam Walton of Walmart in the USA said:

There is only one boss. The customer. And (sic) he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.

Let your customers spend their money with you