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Some Customers Would Rather Get it Right Than Be Right

Written By Amber Breeden

February 4, 2022

When we first started this business over 40 years ago, sales reps drove around with donuts and paper samples in their car, clients didn’t carry a computer in their pocket (or even have one on their desk for that matter), and the customer was always right. The latter is ubiquitous in professional services, but you might be surprised to learn the true meaning. 

The earliest known use of the phrase “the customer is always right” dates back to 1852, when Marshall Field founded his famous department store in Chicago, Illinois. It was later popularized by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridges in the UK, who, uncoincidentally, worked for Field at the turn of the century. This phrase was a novel approach at a time when deceitful business practices were rampant and the norm. So while “the customer is always right” makes people feel special, it was also meant to convey honesty and good intentions. 

Today, the phrase has taken on a different, more passive meaning. But at More Vang, we subscribe to the original idea behind this tenet of customer service. We call it “unsolicited advice.” We want our clients to be successful—our focus is on helping them achieve their marketing goals and outcomes. Sometimes that means questioning what the client has asked for. “We don’t get paid to print beautiful things—we want to understand what the print delivers for the client,” says More Vang’s CEO Jon Budington. 

Unsolicited Advice in Action

We recently started working with a new client, the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC). IEC is a trade association for independent electricians, providing guidance on business, recruiting, training, and advocacy. They originally came to us to print their bimonthly magazine, Insights. During that first conversation, we learned that IEC had an ambitious goal to double Insights’ distribution over the next two years. True to our value of curiosity, we did what we always do—we asked questions. 

When we asked what made the magazine valuable, however, we got as many responses as there were people on the call, and we sensed an openness for change. This was a sign there was some work to do. We suggested that we collaborate on helping them find a clear answer to that question. 

We started by interviewing a cross-section of people from different audience groups that IEC serves so we could better understand the industry as a whole. We asked about their challenges, what they find valuable in Insights, what kind of content would be most useful to them, and how we could improve the user experience of the magazine. After some additional research and a thorough content audit, we shared our strategy recommendations for both content and design. We’re now working with IEC on redesigning a consistent, streamlined template for future issues of Insights.

“More Vang looks beyond the ‘print product’—they want to understand your desired outcome then ensure that the entire project (content, message, voice) is positioned to meet the outcome. IEC was ready for change, and More Vang was ready to help us deliver,” says Thayer Long, IEC’s Executive Director.

Not everyone is receptive to unsolicited advice, but IEC has been open and supportive—more intent on getting it right than being right. In short, they are the very best kind of client to work with; one where our goals are aligned around achieving their outcomes. The phrase “the customer is always right” may be about putting customer satisfaction first, but in marketing, a satisfied customer is a successful one.