You have no doubt heard the expression that the customer is always right, right? Yet we all also know of situations where we don't agree with this phrase, where the customer is clearly not right. For example, if the customers are abusive, negligent, or just plain drunk, they are not right. Go to the website if you want more examples. One of the recurring themes of this site is “I did everything as the client said and they are still not happy.” It is too simplistic to say that clients or customers are always right. Oftentimes they sound pretty confident while in reality they have little clue what they really want.

In terms of giving presentations, we've embraced the attitude of “the customer is always right” to combat the “what do I want to say” attitude we have. We force a focus on the audience, leading to a “what do they want to hear” attitude instead. But giving clients solely what they want isn't a good idea now, and it never was! Consider these quotes from the early 20th century:

  • Henry Ford, entrepreneur: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
  • Samuel Rothafel, impresario for many of the great New York movie palaces: “Giving the people what they want is fundamentally and disastrously wrong. The people don't know what they want … [Give] them something better.”

When Ford and Rothafel said those words, the idea that the customer isn't always right was a novel thought. But by now it ...

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