Is the customer always right?

Consider the following movie clip a case study of how co-founders handle a customer service situation:

[Note: there are a couple of curse words in the above scene]

The job of an entrepreneur is to listen, and then to act on what’s heard
You know your product or service better than anyone else, but if a significant amount of your customers (or potential customers) clearly want something, you should work toward satisfying that demand. Even though co-founders Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) would have ideally liked to serve a customer in a different way, they made an informed decision based on what the market was telling them. (Sure, in this case it was just one customer, but you get the point.)

To sum up:
Get feedback (lots of it), especially from the kind of people that you envision using your product (and ideally paying for it). Then, make informed decisions based on what you learn. That’s how you build something truly valuable. If you try and breeze through customer development you will likely pay for it on the other side.

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3 Comments

  • GRWNews
    November 12, 2010 - 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Interesting point, however not a very visionary approach. (BTW, nice clip from a really good movie; a recommended watch. Check out a few comments http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/big_night/.) That said, there’s a flaw with any philosophy that predicates success on the idea of having your product follow the whims of a customer base. That often results in a principle or concept being compromised to make it appear like something else that exists. In the case of the movie, it would be taking carefully prepared, delicate Italian cuisine (number-one in my book) and turning an establishment serving this style of food into Olive Garden. Or, perhaps more to the point, opening a one-of-a-kind burger restaurant and surrendering after a difficult patch and start churning out Big Macs. In order to embark on a career as an entrepreneur, you certainly need a sensitivity to your client base but you also need to have unfailing confidence in your concept. So much of entrepreneurship is based on finding a niche market, and allowing the overflow from an existing business — particularly if it’s an unimpressive red sauce joint down the street — to dictate your menu may be the exact strategic pitfall to avoid.

    • November 12, 2010 - 2:17 pm | Permalink

      There’s a difference between holding true to your convictions and
      being unwilling to make adjustments. You might be onto something with
      an idea, but hardly any idea goes untouched from concept to
      completion, and the ones that end up as winners generally go through
      multiple iterations along the way.

      Too many entrepreneurs spend their days and nights in a cave and
      emerge after weeks or months of following their initial hypothesis,
      only to find that the market doesn’t want what they thought but rather
      something a little different (or maybe nothing close).

      You shouldn’t act on every piece of feedback as it comes in, but keep
      them in mind as you move forward. Then, when you see a theme
      developing, you should consider doing something about it.

  • GRWNews
    November 12, 2010 - 3:57 pm | Permalink

    A fair point, but always keep your core concept in mind. Sometimes things evolve, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you go from designing homes to building outhouses because of market demands. It could, but if you really wanted to be a house architect, then you need to follow your vision. Isn’t that really what drives entrepreneurs? One other point: a lot of what you’re “selling” is yourself. Your confidence in yourself and your concept will translate to a client base. If you retreat too quickly, you create a potential dynamic for undermining your best efforts.

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