If you’re fortunate enough to have customers who are rooting for you and your business, you’re probably going to need to train yourself to politely thank them for their ideas and not implement them. If you try to implement every bit of input from your customers, you will quickly lose focus, and you could easily lose a lot more than that. The discipline you need in order to politely reject suggestions from well-meaning people varies widely depending upon your circumstances.
It’s likely that 99 percent of customer suggestions are made with nothing but your success in mind. I think most customers really do want to see you succeed, and most of them would be very proud to say they played a role in it. That’s why if you’re a candle maker and you haven’t been advised to branch into scented candles, you will be soon. And if you’re running a retail bakery, I have no doubt that your customers have made numerous suggestions for diversifying your menu. While some think you should celebrate the decadence of pastries by not even pretending to be concerned about calories and fat, others are probably suggesting you offer more diet-conscious options. Listening to customers is important, but no company has unlimited resources to implement all of the suggestions they receive.
What’s a business owner to do? Thank the customers for their input and then stick firmly to the vision set forth in your business plan.
If you’re worried about offending or even driving people away, explain (firmly) that the growth of your business during its first few years is based on a precise plan. Then, add that you’re keeping any and all suggestions in a file for consideration in the future.
It’s important to differentiate between ideas and feedback; although they’re related, they’re different. If you ever find yourself unsure of which file something a customer has told you belongs in, here’s a quick and simple test. Imagine that you’re a dentist and you’ve just launched your own practice with anxiety reduction as your primary differentiator. Is your customer suggesting that you play a different kind of music? If so, that’s feedback on a part of your business meant to appeal to a specific segment of customers. As feedback, you’d be wise to carefully consider it. But if what your customer is telling you concerns changing the parameters used to determine when a tooth is preserved rather than extracted, that’s something that impacts the core of your business, and it’s an area where your customers are expecting you – not one of them – to be the expert. It’s an idea, and it has the potential to steer you off course and cause you to lose focus.
Do you agree that it is important to say “no” in your business?