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Why the Customer is King

BSB Publisher Scott Shriber finds inspiration in a fast-food window.


I recently returned home from a trip to Detroit and saw something that I just couldn’t help writing about.

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From reading my previous columns, I think you’ve figured out that I have an intense focus on customer satisfaction. My dealers used to tell me, “Scott, you’re not passionate about customer satisfaction, you’re obsessed with it.” Now I presume they’re right.

During my tenure in the business world, I’ve really never been able to shake my focus on the customer. After all, without them, who needs any of us? Please don’t misunderstand me — I’m not saying that the customer is always right or anything of the sort. I’m just trying to drive home the point that they’re always the customer and should be treated with the appropriate amount of respect.


It’s the respect for the customer that I think got my attention on my trip. To the right is a picture that I snapped while picking up a soft drink at a well-known fast food operation. I apologize for the quality of the photo, but it was taken with my phone and under the scrutiny of the eatery’s employees. We also blurred out the logo on the photo so as not to get in any legal trouble. Suffice it to say that this restaurant is arguably one of the most recognized enterprises in the U.S., if not the world.


I’m sure you can recognize the scenario here. This is the second window where they give you your food. They’ve already received your payment and you’re merely waiting for your order at this window. Heaven forbid you decide you want more! Can you imagine saying “No” to a customer in your shop who asks, after the initial repair, if he or she can pay you out-of-pocket to straighten and paint the other fender?

Here’s the problem with this absurd policy. If you follow their directions, you have two choices: you can go back around and wait in line all over again, or pull off their property and go to any of the other five fast food places that are within 100 yards of this particular dining establishment. Chances are, they’re going to lose the customer — but it’s so important to keep our customers when we have them! It costs way more to get a new one than it does to maintain an existing one.


Please don’t think that I don’t understand the issues at hand. This is a perfect example of process management gone bad. I’m a huge believer and graduate of the process school of thought and follow it on a daily basis. But this is a case where management has allowed process to solve a problem without regard to logic or the customer. Process must be looked at from the patron’s point of view as a final step in implementation.

Take a look around your place of business. Do you see an environment that pays respect to your customers? Do your employees and policies make business sense for you and your customers? If not, you better get those policies adjusted for you and your customers’ sake. Remember, the customer can always go somewhere and have it their way, if you catch my drift.

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