Profits over Customer Happiness = A Recipe for Disaster

Posted by Corey Smith on Sep 21, 2023 8:18:00 AM

Customer Delight

I think that one of the greatest failings in just about every business is forgetting who signs the front of the check. When we are employees, we forget who the employer is. When we are vendors, we forget who the client is. All too often, we fall into the trap of thinking that we certainly know better. We think we are the smartest in the room and figure that everything would be so much better if everyone would just do what we say.

Of course, I am writing this from a marketing leader’s point of view. However, I guarantee that this applies to every company/industry out there. We think that we are the best and everyone else is terrible. My hope here is that you might take this information and evaluate either your marketing team or your current marketing agency and determine whether they are truly the right fit for you. I think that so many marketing and web development agencies are particularly vulnerable. They forget that some of their key objectives are to create delighted clients by meeting their goals within established timelines that are within set budgets and to be pleasant the entire time.

Find Opportunities for Amazing Experiences

Just ask my wife- I’m picky. I want things ‘just so.’ I am willing to pay a little extra for an amazing experience but I expect that amazing experience. If I can’t afford that amazing experience, then I don’t expect it. This concept I’m referring to is something I call The Value Gap. You can learn more here about this concept and why it’s important for you to be aware of.

As a side story, I was working with a monument engraver for a grave marker. He was used to very picky clients… more importantly, he was used to very unreasonable clients. He was working hard to make sure I was going to be happy, not knowing that even though I’m picky I’ve also learned to be patient. I told him, “I’ve learned that if I’m very patient then I can be as picky as I want to be.”

I mention that side story because I actively find opportunities to be delighted by vendors. If they fall short, I actively find opportunities for them to solve the problem. If they succeed, I will show loyalty to them and even defend them if others don’t have the same experience.

Because I have the expectation of a great experience when I’m the one to sign the front of the check (and recognize that I’m significantly more patient than the average), I want to ensure that my clients have an amazing experience themselves.

I’m not saying that “the client is always right.” I actually think that is a farce and an excuse for people to mistreat their vendors. I’m saying that the vendor- in my case, the marketing agency- must go above and beyond to ensure that the client gets what they paid for, at a minimum… ideally more. They need to receive the value (or more) of what they paid for.

Amazing Experiences Lead to Delighted Customers

If you are signing the front of the check, you deserve to be delighted. You deserve to be treated with due respect. Don’t get cocky—you still have to be cool to the vendor—but you are in charge.

According to Forbes, 96% of your customers will ditch you in a heartbeat because of bad customer service.

  • 27.9% said they are extremely willing to switch to have a better customer service experience
  • 32.7% are very willing to switch
  • 35.5% are somewhat willing to switch

You have an obligation to keep your clients happy. It’s not good enough to think that- because you have a long-term contract- you don’t have to keep them happy. They hire you for a service, and you are obligated to fulfill that service in a way that keeps them delighted.

For me, customer delight is so important that I spoke on the topic a few years ago. It’s close to an hour long, but it’s well worth the watch if I do say so myself.

Customer Happiness Begets Profit

Regardless of your industry, you likely will see a similar problem to what I see in the digital marketing space- We think we need to focus on profit generation. If we don’t hit our 10%, 25%, or 50% margin, then we believe we are failing. Because of that, we set our most important KPI as profitability.

But, what is the result? When profits are the primary KPI, those profits almost always come at the expense of the customer experience.

And therein lies a seeming paradox. When we focus on profitability as our most important metric, customer happiness suffers. When customer happiness suffers, we actually become less profitable. The reason? It’s that 96% of customers will leave you if they aren’t happy. As soon as they find an alternate solution to solve their problem, they bail.

Conversely, if your first focus is customer delight and happiness, then you’ll become more profitable. Why?

  1. Your customers will stay with you longer (customer retention)
  2. Your customers will buy more services from you (increased revenue)
  3. Your customers will refer their friends (free marketing)
  4. You can charge more for your service (increased value)

Now, keep in mind that delighting customers doesn’t mean you become a doormat. It means you care enough to provide them with an amazing experience, so you put forth the effort that is required to do so and that is your focus.

Can You Delight Everyone?

I’ve heard this question so many times over the years as I’ve talked about client delight, “What about the clients that I can’t seem to make happy?”

The reality is that you can’t make everyone happy. It’s impossible. There are many reasons why a customer won’t ever be happy. The most common reason is that there is a cultural mismatch.

If you can’t make your client happy then your job is to help them find someone who can. You get to choose the way you do that. You might refer them to someone else. You might simply say, “I can’t make you happy, so after such-and-such date, we’ll need to part ways.” Don’t be afraid to fire a customer that you simply can’t make happy. It’s not worth the stress they likely cause you and not worth it for them if they are never happy.

In my world, it really comes down to the idea that Marketing Should Not Be Stressful.

But, be careful. Before you go firing a client that can’t be happy, make sure you have truly done your part. If you aren’t truly doing your part to take excellent care of your client, then you need to fix that first. Maybe you want to learn more about that. If not, then I can’t help you. If you are interested in learning more (and getting better at it), read this next: How To Achieve Client Delight [With Examples].

Corey Smith

Written by Corey Smith

Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Managing Director for Tribute Media. He is also the VP of Web & Creative for Hawke Media.