How To Tell The Customer They’re Wrong

Joanne Gore_printmediacentrBy Joanne Gore

Rule number one in business: The Customer is always right? But what happens when they’re wrong?

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a group of students at Western Michigan University. They were a varied bunch; some were in the marketing program, others in print, communications, advertising, and graphic design. They were eager to learn the “tricks of the trade” so-to-speak and how to figure out what to do after graduation.

I spoke to them about my own career journey as a graphic designer with a print background working as a marketing consultant. And I delved into the area of what they DO and what they DON’T teach you in school.

The first thing they don’t teach you? How to tell the client they’re wrong.

The second thing? The client is always right.

Well…that woke them up! Because whether you are dealing with a large client, small client, or even your boss, the person who “signs your paycheque” is always right! Or are they?

JG_BlogWhile I don’t recommend that you blatantly tell your client (or boss) that they are buffoons and completely out of their mind wrong (admit it…we’ve all been there!), you absolutely CAN give them an alternative.

For example, I had a client who was re-doing her business cards. My designer came up with several really good, clean designs. She didn’t like them. Said they were boring. Wanted something bold and colourful. Rather than get into a debate about why this wouldn’t work, I gave her what she asked for. But I mixed in some of these new concepts with the old ones.

Which did she end up with? Of course, one of the original concepts. But she was the one who chose it. So in the end she was right.

But what if you can’t change their mind? What if they truly are wrong and their choice/decision might very-well negatively impact the company?

A mentor of mine once said “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions”. I fall back on those sound words whenever I run into a particular sticky situation. Wherever possible, I go back to the objectives of the project. Can I show a compelling ROI? Faster time to money? Produce it cheaper, faster, better, etc?

Sometimes, however, the customer will not sway. And in those instances you have to decide if it’s worth it. Will your morals be sacrificed? Will the result be detrimental to your reputation? If so, can you have a rational discussion to investigate alternate options? Communication is key and all options must be explored. Depending on the circumstance, you may need to fire your client. But maybe, just maybe, you can turn the situation around.

I have learned over the years that, with the appropriate guidance and subtle “nudge”, the customer will reach their own decision and the right decision.

About Joanne Gore

Joanne Gore has nearly twenty years of marketing and communications experience, including corporate and small office environments. She is a talented and creative marketing professional, always positive and able to see the big picture. She possesses the organization/prioritization skills which allow her to manage multiple projects from inception to implementation, meeting deadline demands and budgetary constraints.

A true mentor, Joanne marries her passion for marketing with clear, creative feedback and inspiration. Joanne develops lead generation and conversion programs, re-brands product lines, implements social media strategies, manages PR and media relations campaigns, overhauls websites, develops highly targeted marketing campaigns, and delivers results.

Joanne graduated as a Graphic Designer and, prior to joining the corporate world, worked in the print industry as an art director, typesetter, and printing consultant. Joanne is a marketing geekette by day, a fitness instructor by night, and a mom 24-7.


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