Noel Coward put it best: “The customer’s always right, my boys/The customer’s always right/The son of a bitch/Is probably rich/So smile with all your might.” Sometimes, it can take a lot to smile. Like the other day, when a customer phoned me just after we’d done a reasonably complicated rush job for him at a nanosecond’s notice and complained that he thought our prices were a bit steep.
Keeping my voice firmly in neutral, I asked why he thought so. Turned out the previous printer had done it for slightly cheaper. When I pointed out that they couldn’t fit him in this time around - and that we’d rearranged our schedule to squeeze the job in - he admitted as much but I could still hear the ‘Yes, but…” in his voice.
He’s reasonably intelligent so I asked him if he’d ever heard of dynamic pricing, the idea that prices are not set in stone but are flexible and driven by market demands. So, for example, on New Year’s Eve night, when everyone wants a cab, taxi companies charge you double. He said he’d heard of it, but the way he said that made it sound as if he didn’t feel it should apply to him. So I laboured the point and said if he booked in his next order over a sensible time frame we’d probably charge him less. That seemed to mollify him slightly. I suppose it gave him something to tell his boss.
To be honest, I wish there were more customers like him. Not complaining ones - there are plenty of those - but customers who buy their print at the last minute. A looming deadline, like the prospect of imminent hanging, does focus the mind and make people less likely to argue about the pennies.
That said, I don’t know if we’ll get another order from our disgruntled customer. He sounded like one of those buyers who is professionally dissatisfied. It seems odd to say it, when everyone I talk to is saying they’re keen to find new customers, but part of the art of survival in this business is to know which customers you want to work with - and stay away from those you don’t.