There’s this age-old adage every person would do well to remember: “You can’t please everyone.”  But, it doesn’t stop some from trying, especially businesses.

Entrepreneurs are aware that building a brand that caters to everyone is impossible. At the same time, however, they want to make the most out of every opportunity they can get, so they hesitate to say no. With this mindset, they tend to offer a broader range of products and services to appeal to a broader customer base. They’re casting a large net in hopes of bringing home quite the haul. 

The problem is that the net also ends up catching anything that’s not even fish. It ends up upsetting everybody: the clients who just learned about it, the vocal minority expressing their outrage at the practice, and the non-fish going about their business. They end up wasting resources, and the results don’t even come close to what they had in mind. It will take as much, if not more, to earn back their customers’ trust. Preventing this from happening to your business involves first getting rid of this mindset.

Even a large company like Apple understands this. In a 2016 interview with Fast Company, Apple senior vice-president for software engineering Craig Federighi answered the endless queries why the company isn’t innovating in specific areas, like social media: it isn’t the Everything Company. He adds that Apple instead focuses its resources on the things it does well, developing iPhones and Macs, which Federighi said is more rewarding.

All the more small and medium enterprises should keep this in mind. They only have the resources to focus on a specific niche, not enough to diversify, at least for the meantime. Customers will be more appreciative of businesses that can meet their particular needs. From there, companies can establish a connection and see the value of the trust their clients give them.

With that done, it’s time to improve upon that connection.

Don’t Try Too Hard

Customers are getting smarter. They can see and smell a business trying too hard from a mile away, and their reactions can vary from ridicule to disgust.

Case in point: in 2015, Bud Light launched their ‘Up For Whatever’ ad campaign that urged new customers to say yes to trying new things. The slogan aimed to invoke a carefree, fun night out with friends. It went as well as the brand’s marketing department hadn’t expected—the message missed its mark.

Shortly after the campaign went live, Twitter erupted with affronted reactions. The ad’s words on a bottle, “The perfect beer for removing ‘No’ from your vocabulary for the night,” gave a different impression: one of alcohol-fueled rape culture. Bud Light immediately took to Twitter to apologize for the blunder, adding that they would never endorse such irresponsible behavior.

The brand could’ve settled for a more concise message, but in an attempt to appear creative got this mess instead. But, say that the slogan worked for some inconceivable reason; the impact might have been marginal at best.

A survey of 75,000 respondents who commonly interacted with customer care representatives had found that going above and beyond made little difference. Eight out of ten customer service heads said they urged representatives to exceed expectations. However, around as many customers said that their expectations had barely exceeded with recent interactions. Researchers found that there’s little relationship between customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Customers are more likely to be just as satisfied if the business meets their needs. Offer to replace a product or compensate for lack of service when the company is obligated to do so. Don’t attempt to pile additional benefits if it will most likely result in empty promises. Work within your means.

Always Keep In Touch

General Douglas MacArthur once said: “You are remembered for the rules you break, not the rules you follow.”  In a business sense, this quote rings painfully true.

A single bad experience with customer service can trigger a ripple effect. Studies show one out of 25 customers will directly complain to a business for poor customer service; the rest will tell up to 20 other people about it. The negative reputation will reverberate across the consumer market and pin a business against the wall.

Here’s an example: MoviePass was a ticketing service that offered subscribers one movie ticket a day for USD$10 a month. Seeing that an average ticket plays around that price, hundreds of Americans jumped on this steal. Who would want to miss the chance to buy USD$300 worth of movie tickets for just 1/30 of the price per month?

In 2018, news broke of a MoviePass subscriber having her account deleted for violating the terms of service by using it to watch a ‘premium’ movie. The subscriber, who purchased the USD$90 annual subscription, denied ever doing so. MoviePass’s customer service did little to help her, refusing to refund her for what she believed was a mistake. The company issued a vague statement that subscribers should reach out to their customer service for concerns. MoviePass officially shut down one year later, but not before being graded a dismal F by the Better Business Bureau based on 1,500 complaints (2,300 as of this writing).

Keeping in touch involves being reachable at any time and affirming to resolve the reason for that customer’s call. Remember that fellow humans are on the other end of the phone, and treating their concerns without compassion is a recipe for a PR disaster. As mentioned earlier, there’s no need for a business to go above and beyond; just remember to always engage customers in a meaningful way.

Of course, situations such as a full queue of calls are unavoidable. Making a customer wait for too long is a good way to lose a customer altogether. Fortunately, some options can create customized calls or voicemails, like Drop Cowboy. They can give the impression of the company reaching out to the customer like a close friend. 

Stay Until The End

Any customer interaction isn’t over until the customer says so. Never leave a customer hanging by ending any call when they still have questions and concerns. As the following example shows, not staying with them until the end can leave a mess that you can’t just sweep under the rug.

Hours into the Norwegian Sun’s 15-day cruise through the Panama Canal in 2018, the passengers started hearing renovation sounds onboard. Some areas of the ship were cordoned off as dust and debris from the works blew across the vessel. Several passengers began having difficulty breathing and sought treatment at the infirmary, only to be charged a fee. 

The situation got so bad that about 500 angry passengers had had enough and decided to confront the Norwegian Sun’s captain. Instead of at least lending an ear to the passengers’ frustrations, the captain stormed out of the room. When the news exploded on Facebook, many couldn’t help but wonder why a cruise ship would even undergo renovation during a voyage.

Norwegian Cruise Lines apologized for the mishap and offered the affected passengers full credit for another cruise, valid until 2023. But, it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll ever get on one again.

Any business will have its fair share of ‘difficult’ customers, but hanging up on them won’t make things any better. A 2012 survey of 2,500 customers found that a third of them expected businesses to answer their calls without delay, while over a quarter said they were willing to wait for a minute. With access to the Internet, customers can search for another business that’s more willing to listen.

If there’s no way for a business to entertain a call right now, the least it can do is to call them back. A 2017 survey of more than 1,100 customers found that two-thirds preferred businesses call them when they’re available. This is doable with the available technology, such as non-fixed VoIP

Once in a call, see through it until the end, doing the best you can to assist. Prematurely ending the call puts an emotional toll on both the client and business. It wastes the client’s time and denies a company a platform from which it can defend itself. After all, you’d be offended, too, if someone hung up on you all of a sudden.

Don’t forget to use courteous language when ending a call. Never give the impression that you’re in a hurry to take another call; clients might feel that they’re unimportant. Tell them that it’s been a pleasure talking to them and invite them to call again for issues and concerns in the future. Use a variety of phrases to avoid sounding too automated.

Remain Courteous

The least a business can do when faced with an unsatisfied customer is to give them full attention, no matter how minor or major the issue is.

This was not the case for a woman and her USD$7,000 purchase of toilet paper on Amazon. In 2018, a woman in Georgia bought three boxes of toilet paper, 48 rolls per box, for USD$88.17, plus free two-day shipping (as she was a prime member). A week after the toilet paper was delivered, she found out that her bank account had been charged a staggering USD$7,543.17 in shipping for some reason. She called Amazon’s customer service to dispute the amount.

Instead of receiving a pleasant welcome, the woman said each person who took her call chuckled at the crazy amount. Since a third-party retailer sold the toilet paper, Amazon instructed her to call that retailer, but was unreachable. It reached the point that the woman sent an email to CEO Jeff Bezos to no avail. It took a local news team to pick up the story for her concern to gain attention, after which she was reimbursed both for the shipping fee and the toilet paper.

A positive experience in customer interaction works wonders. The 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report published by Microsoft wrote that about one in three Americans believes a friendly person on the phone is essential for a positive experience. It definitely includes not laughing at a person’s problems, as well as using courteous language.

Whether or not someone buys something from a business, make sure to thank them for their time. Leave an apology if the company fails to meet the customer’s needs and even encourage checking back in the future. It’s important to reciprocate any kindness the customer offers in kind.

Experts recommend steering clear of answers like, “I don’t know,” or, “It’s company policy.” Keep in mind that the customer has come to you for solutions, and it will be in your best interest to not let them down.


Before wrapping up this piece,  have a look below at one example of communication done right.

In 2013, then seven-year-old Luka Apps lost his Jay ZX Lego figure (from the 3D-animated TV series Ninjago) while on a shopping trip. He wrote to Lego about how the loss made him upset and asked if the company would give him another one. His father, Simon, sent the letter via email.

Lego Consumer Services responded to his plea in a language a seven-year-old Ninjago fan can relate to. It started out by saying that the representative’s boss can’t send a new one since he lost it, so he did the next best thing: calling Sensei Wu, master of Jay ZX and his fellow ninjas. It then continued by quoting the Sensei’s wisdom—that Luka must protect his Ninjago figures the same way dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjutzu. The letter came with another Jay ZX figure, as well as a bad guy for him to fight. This figure was unique at the time, as it enabled other Jays to combine into one. The story went viral after.

Connecting to customers is a matter of making sure customers can lean on businesses, like a stone wall. A relationship starts to form when a customer inquires about a product or service, which the business must nurture. There’s no need to strain your resources by going over the top; focus on the customer’s immediate needs and do the best you can to fulfill them.

Keep in touch even if the customer doesn’t return. If they end up calling anyway, remain courteous and see it through the end. A positive experience will spread a business’s image as far and wide as a negative one. There’s no need to please everyone with concessions.

Be the best business your customers want you to be. 

By Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to [email protected].