The Customer Is Always Right: How An Old Adage Applies to Consumer Financing Today

Whether you've been in retail for a short time or for many years, you've undoubtedly heard the slogan, "The customer is always right." This motto has its origins in the early 20th century, when it was popularized by retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge, who founded a London-based department store chain called Selfridge's in 1908. This quote has been widely used by many other successful business owners and entrepreneurs, because it speaks to a fundamental success factor for retail businesses: how well they serve their customers.

That famous phrase was far from the only bit of wisdom Mr. Selfridge shared, however. A lesser-known quote of his says, "People will sit up and take notice of you if you will sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice." It doesn't quite roll off the tongue like, "The customer is always right," but there is a very important lesson for retail business owners in this puzzle of a sentence. Let's take some liberties with this century-old quote, and phrase it like this instead: "Your customer will pay attention to you, if you pay attention to what makes them pay attention."

This is a big part of understanding what "The customer is always right," really means. It's not just that the customer should be deferred to in situations where they come to you to right a wrong, or when it's your opinion versus theirs. Rather, the customer is really always right in the sense that their preferences, their desires and their objectives are critical to your business. if you do not follow your customers, if you do not pay attention to what they pay attention to, but go your own way instead, you aren't acknowledging that their customer is always right, you're saying that your way is better, and that you know better than your customers.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with anticipating your customers' needs. But anticipating can become ignoring dangerously quickly. If you truly buy into the time-tested adage that "The customer is always right," then you must accept that what they want from your business, both today and tomorrow, is right also. if the customer is always right, then they know the right thing for you do. All you have to do is pay attention to whatever they pay attention to.

And what are they paying attention to in the world of retail? To get more specific, what are they paying attention to when it comes to consumer financing? Where do their priorities lie? What do they want? Have you given that enough thought? Have you pursued the interests of your customers or merely given them what you think they want?

Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself to find out where your consumer finance program stands in relation to what your customers want and anticipate.

Does Your Consumer Finance Program Respect Your Customers' Time?

Time is a precious resource. Many have traded great fortunes to try and get more time for themselves, and many will gladly spend a lot time earning money to spend on spending time the right way. When someone says, "time is money," we all know what they mean. Time is a universal currency, and how we spend it matters.

It matters a great deal to your customers, as well. From the moment they first contact you, visit your website, or walk into your retail location, the clock is ticking. They are spending time with you and your business. It is a big responsibility for you and your team to bear, in the sense that you want to always ensure that the time they spend with you is time well spent.

Given this, if your consumer finance program is a waste of time, either of your customers' time or your employees', you must make a change. An inefficient, laborious application process, slow, ineffective reporting, inconvenient data entry when transmitting applications to multiple lenders — all of these are time wasters that will negatively impact your retail operation directly, by using your employees' time inefficiently, and indirectly, when you lose out on revenue due to negative word of mouth or customer attrition as a result of the unwelcome difficulties inherent to your finance process.

Examine your process carefully. If you find inefficiencies — gaps, where time is being used poorly — you must find a solution to resolve these issues and get your process and program in a better place. Every day you put it off is likely more money being left on the table.

Does Your Consumer Finance Program Respect Your Customers' Privacy?

Security at your retail business must be an all-encompassing thing; it has to touch every facet of your business, from your physical, on-premises security to the software and electronic devices you use. If you intend to use a software solution to help streamline your consumer finance process, you need to take the time to thoroughly investigate it and ensure that it has the property security features in place to protect your customers' precious data and your own.

Ensure that any software solution you leverage keeps your customer and business data safe and secure through User Verification, PCI Compliance and CCPA Compliance. In today's digitized world, where bad actors target vulnerable caches of customer and business data on a daily basis, ensuring software compliance with these security standards is table stakes for retail businesses offering consumer financing.

Does Your Consumer Finance Program Pay Attention to What Your Customers' Pay Attention To?

Why do you offer consumer financing? Is it to check an item off a list? To have a backup option available to dust off every now and then when a customer doesn't want or isn't able to pay up front? Is it a mere formality in the structure of your business, or an integral part of the way you do business?

Take stock of your motivations. Retail customers crave options. They want consumer financing. It is always in high demand, but in an inflationary economy with the price of everyday staples unsustainably ballooned, that desire is stronger than ever. Pay attention to what your customers want. Offer financing not as a last resort to certain customers, but to every customer, every time, as a key part of your retail experience.

The more you offer financing, the more customers will be interested in it, and the more sales you will make. Train your team to anticipate not what they think the customer wants, but what you know they are already paying attention to, and watch your revenue rise.

An Old Motto With a New Solution

"The customer is always right." So many businesses use this phrase, and so many business owners speak it to themselves and their employees as a kind of mantra. But saying it and living it out are two very different things. If you are to deliver on the true potential of this slogan, you must make the customers wants and needs the center and guiding focus of your business, and of your consumer finance program.

But where do you begin? A good place to start is with making direct improvements to your consumer finance process with a comprehensive automation solution like FormPiper. Designed to support the needs of retail business owners like you, FormPiper streamlines the application process, provides easy-to-access, on-demand reporting from a single convenient dashboard, protects your customers' and business's data with robust security policies, and provides flexibility for you and your business with managed and self-managed serviced options.

Above all else, FormPiper pays attention to what you pay attention to, recognizing that, when it comes to consumer finance, the retail business customer is always right. Explore all that FormPiper has to offer, and see for yourself how we can make your consumer finance process easier and more efficient, to help you increase your revenue and better serve the customers that make your business a success.

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