Your Customer is Not a Moron

Added 29 October 2015

Your Customer is Not a Moron

A friend narrated this story about a psychiatrist who, on a weekday, was waiting for patients in his clinic. A middle-aged man and a young woman walked in, and the doctor perked up. However, his visitors’ request left him dumbfounded. “Doctor, we have a simple request. We want you to watch us making love.” The doctor blurted out, “Here?” The patient left no doubt in the doctor’s mind by replying, “Yes, Doctor. Here, in your office, in your presence.”

Well, if you are a psychiatrist, you do get all kinds of people walking in. The doctor agreed, the couple promptly shed their clothes, and made love on the couch in the doctor’s office. When done, they did not ask for any other consultation, and paid the stipulated fee of $100 per visit. The doctor was bemused and bewildered.

Three weeks went by, and the same couple walked into the psychiatrist’s clinic, with the same request. The entire sequence of events was repeated once again, and the patients left, clearly very happy and satisfied. The doctor dismissed any suspicions of nefarious intent on the part of his ‘patients’ by recalling the fact that they did pay the full fee, and everything about the whole incident was certainly very ‘professional’.

With a strong need to follow professional ethics, and not force a patient to share anything about themselves until they are ready to, the good doctor permitted this incident to repeat itself for two more times in his clinic. On the fifth occasion, he simply couldn’t take it anymore, and blurted out, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing this?”

The man patiently explained, “Doctor, we do owe you an explanation. We are having an affair, and we need some place to meet. The best-priced place in town is the Holiday Inn nearby, and they charge $120 for every check-in. With your $100 charges that are fully reimbursable with Medicare, this is the best deal for us. We believe it is a win-win for you, and for us.”

The doctor, needless to say, was left nonplussed. He kicked himself for not questioning them on their first visit. He was even more ashamed at justifying his inaction on the fully paid professional fees that he was collecting. By being blinded by the income generated, and not questioning the real purpose behind the customers’ visit to his clinic, he was unnerved by having, quite unwittingly, set himself up as a competitor to Holiday Inn.

A maxim worthy of gold standard in Marketing says, “The Customer’s Perception is Your Reality.”

We have seen CEOs and Business Heads in companies believe that parts of the company that are ‘making money’ have a halo around them. They are holy cows. What if the money-making product/service does not fit the overall strategic direction or business purpose of the company? Shockingly, such questions are brushed aside with comments such as, “It is doing well. Let’s leave it alone”, or “It will run its course, and we will then discontinue that”, or even, “this is a Cash Cow – we are not comfortable shutting it down.” While chasing revenues without making profits, how many of today’s e-commerce companies can tell us the specific customer problem that they are addressing/solving?

How many companies actually verify if their reason to be in that business is indeed congruent with and/or the same as the customers’ reason(s) to give you that business? If you don’t, the customer will then decide the business you are in, and you may not like the place the customer puts you in. For example, when a large majority of the initial buyers buy a particular model of a car and use them as cabs, the premium buyer avoids buying this model as a private car.

Customers do know what you are good for and good at, much better than you do. David Ogilvy’s timeless and priceless lines say,

“The Consumer is not a Moron. She is your wife.”


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