Harvey’s Saying “The Client is King”

Do you have a simple operating philosophy or principle that you live by? 

I had a business partner, Harvey Gellman, who was a really clear thinker and liked to keep things simple.  We were in a consulting business together since the 60's and the saying he kept repeating was "The Client is King". .

At that time it sounded ridiculous and impractical.  People would say "what about profit?" or "you got to be kidding, that is really stupid".  The saying sounded too simple to be practical.  His point was clearly that you have to put the client first.  Everything else is secondary.  I find it difficult to recall how ridiculous that sounded at the time because now it is really obvious, at least for me.. 

We have come a long way in our thinking about customer service since then.  However I wonder how many of us practice putting the client first.  The point Harvey was making is that the only real asset most consultants have is their client and they must be your primary focus.   

At that time I was just learning the consulting business and I often would go to Harvey with a client problem.    Harvey was a really clear thinker and liked to keep things simple.  The question he would ask me was "What is in the best interest of the client?"  Such a simple question but not one that is easy to answer.  It always helped.  So putting the client first, and other issues secondary always worked for me.

I wonder why this principle is so difficult for many businesses to put into practice.  I think most businesses think they are in the business of selling some product or service and spend all their time trying to sell more services or making more profit.  Most people are trying to sell the latest feature or the latest idea.  Rather than being customer focused, they become product focused. 

Most businesses measure sales and profits and rarely measure customer satisfaction.  They measure the customers they lose but do they know why.  Were they acting in the best interest of the customer?  In the volume selling business, I think everybody assumes the price is the determining factor.  I believe that going the extra mile for the customer is the key to success.     

Another problem might be that the best interest of the customer is a very intangible thing.  In comparison, the product is very tangible and can be thought about in a concrete way.  If we really care about the customer and their interests,  we might behave quite differently.

So Harvey’s simple saying,.”The client is king”, is still very relevant and still a challenge today.  Does your operating philosophy involve your customer?  Do you have a simple guiding principle?

Comments welcome. 

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