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You talkin’ to me?


Is the customer always right? Let's find out by asking a taxi-driver...

The customer, they say, is always right.  Those of us who work in the service industry aren’t supposed to say anything bad about customers because, after all, without customers we wouldn’t have a business. But most people who deal with the general public on a regular basis will tell you that the customer is often far from right - sometimes the customer is wrong, irrational and unreasonable.  

When you run your own business you can, to a degree, choose your customers.  I’m very fortunate that the customers I work with at the moment are a great bunch and I enjoy working with them.  However, I’ve turned down offers of work from some companies in the past, simply because I disliked the way they treated me, or something about their behaviour suggested that the work would be more hassle than it was worth.  Over the years, I’ve started to notice that customers fall into three categories - and to understand these categories, you have to think of yourself as a taxi driver.

Now, when most passengers get into a taxi, the first thing they tell the driver is where they want to go: then they sit back and let the driver get on with doing what he’s been hired to do.  Most clients are like this; they hire me, tell me where they want to go and then let me get on with doing it.  They may ask why I’m taking a particular route but they’re happy to let me get on with it.

There’s a smaller set of passengers who tell the driver where to go and then tell him the best route to get there.  Sometimes there’s a good reason for that - they may have information about traffic conditions that the driver does not; they may want to go via a particular place for a particular reason.  Often, however, when it comes to clients, it’s less about them having knowledge that I don’t and more about them needing to retain control.  They lack the time to do the job themselves, and so have effectively hired me as a pair of hands.  They’re a little frustrating to work with but will usually relax a little when they realise I know what I’m doing.  

The third set of passengers are the worst - these are the passengers who tell the driver where to go, how to get there and then shove him out of the seat so they can do the driving themselves.  As clients, they are exhausting: over-involved in every detail, down to setting out timings and specifying exercises, often they’ll want to “co-facilitate” (by which they usually mean sit at the back and do very little except watch your every move like a hawk and question/criticise everything you do).  They’re rare but you know it when they get into the back of your taxi - and often they’ll find themselves quickly ejected and made to walk home...

What have your bad experiences with customers been?

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