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The Customer Is Always Right

I have never much liked the saying, "The customer is always right." I think it should be worded something like, "You always must keep the customer happy and ecstatic." Certainly, we have to have a customer focus, but I think it can be argued that customers don't always know what they want. I'm sure that if Bill Gates had listened to his original customers, his operating software would do little more than function as a calculator and electronic typewriter.

As cow-calf producers, we have to keep our primary customers, the feedyards, happy. We know they want cattle that remain healthy, gain and convert feed efficiently, and increasingly hang a desirable carcass in terms of quality and yield grade. They are great at setting some targets, but they are often not the people to listen to on how to get there. I'm not knocking the feedyard industry, but they don't spend a lot of time taking advice from the packing industry on how to properly feed a steer to its ideal compositional endpoint.

I had one of those experiences recently with my Hotmail e-mail account. I realized just how insignificant I was to their business, and just how inflexible and anti-customer a bureaucratic corporation can be. They made it abundantly clear they didn't need my business.

As cow-calf producers, we find ourselves in a similar boat, and we simply do not have the numbers to matter. The feeding and packing industry are consolidated enough that we don't have many options. The lesson -- we must follow their rules, meet at least their minimal standards, and understand that creating value is not only our responsibility but our charge.

I was amazed after my little e-mail fiasco at how many companies wanted my business -- and had a product quite a bit better. Sometimes we are guilty of getting caught up in using the commodity marketplace because it is so ubiquitous and easy to access, and not looking for better opportunities.

The customer is not always right, he is often wrong, and he often doesn't know the potential of your product or what your product can do to make them more money. We should always strive to keep our customer happy, but our focus should simply be on creating more value and finding the customer that can appreciate that value.

Always make sure you are exceeding the wishes of your customer, but long-term success is creating value in a product that your customer may not have even have thought of. -- Troy Marshall