Is the customer always right?

That's what we're told: The customer is always right.
Customer with Credit Card
Is it true?
If not, how do you tell the customer (art buyer, student, collector) that s/he is wrong?
Deep Thought Thursday

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19 thoughts on “Is the customer always right?”

  1. I have never told a customer they are wrong. I have asked them to live with a work for a while when they are not sure. Having done that, the customers family oohed and ahed over the work and they ended up having me do nothing but accept their appreciation. If they are not satisfied after the agreed amount of time, I will make changes to accommodate their desires. or at worst exchange the work for another.

  2. Nicely, but firmly.
    I’m committed to living my life and not compromising my values, my outlook or my artwork. It’s just that important to me.
    I would say that all my conversations with clients in this vein are about educating the client. Approaching it from that standpoint makes it a relevant learning conversation. The client goes away more informed about the piece, the intent and context of the work, more able to make an informed decision.

  3. No – customer is not always right. When someone tells me they are intended to violate my copyright – they are not right.
    At one show, I had one person tell me she intended to buy the small size of a photo – have her cousin scan it – and print it larger for her – since she though my prices for my larger sizes were too high. Another time, I had someone tell me they were going to buy one of my notecards – so she could scan the photo and use it on her wedding invitations and announcements.
    In both cases, I explained that the photos were copyrighted and that what were intended to was not legal. For the woman who wanted to use it on her wedding invitation – I said I could license the photo to her for that use. Both said – no it was easier just to scan it themselves for how they wanted to use it.
    At that point in each conversation – I refused to the photo to them and asked them to leave my booth at the show.

    1. I can relate. I actually met someone who enthusiastically told me they had copied an artist’s work and sold 4 of the same paintings already. I informed this person that what she was doing was illegal and she was horrified. She had no idea!? I try to make my work as complicated and detailed is possible – partly because I enjoy details and partly because of people like this.

  4. Gotta say no. A client pays for an artist’s vision, technique, and voice.
    I agreed to do a commission. Found all the right materials, agreed on a design, got one third of the agreed upon price up front, and started work. Made the HUGE mistake of sending work-in-progress photos.
    I started getting emails from the client and THE CLIENT’S RELATIVES suggesting changes to the work in progress. I sent back the deposit (which hurt financially) with a letter stating that I was declining to work with the client and RELATIVES, and that if I implemented their suggestions my voice in the piece would be lost.
    I finished the piece according to my original design and offered it to the client at the originally agreed upon price. She bought it. She also learned a lesson about trusting the artist and I learned (in spades) about NOT updating the client with progress photos.

  5. The few times I’ve waived the downpayment on commissions for old school chums, They flaked out! That isn’t right, but then I guess they can’t really be classified as customers, since no money exchanged hands. So, ultimately it was my fault.
    I had one situation where the commissioning customer increased the size and was outraged that the price increased. We negotiated a settlement, and then he implored me to never mention it to the mutual friend who recommended me. I didn’t mention it, but you can bet I hope to NEVER see that guy again (customer, not the referral guy). And I learned to be very very clear when a customer makes a size change midstream. Very Clear!
    It takes great diplomacy to dance around a situation where the customer isn’t right. Perhaps if we view that as them just misunderstanding rather than take offense and then try to see their point of view and come to a mutual understanding, then we can retain them as a customer.

  6. Ugh…The customer is always right is a piece of sales advice…It is not meant as an absolute…It is just a reminder to the salesperson to be nice, if you are trying to clinch a sale…It is just one in a million tiny tidbits that salespeople need to remember when they are trying to sell something…Of course the customer can be wrong, but the point is to try to remember that you want to sell them something, they want to buy something or have already & you really shouldn’t be trying to be disagreeable or rude(Parisians are exempt btw)…It is an etiquette rule…Do your very best to be agreeable…”Of course you want to buy sculpture by the pound, that is a smart way to buy sculpture, by weight…”
    “Of course the painting must match your couch, how could a work of art think to clash with a couch?”…(This is why artists often need salespeople to work for them, because telling what we really think is a bit of a habit)…

  7. They are always right. But they may not be a good match. Their “right” needs to match my “right” and if not, it is best to politely suggest they look somewhere else for their need to be met.

  8. I love this conversation. I tend to lean towards they are always right with my commercial work and I jump through hoops all the time for my clients, yes, occasionally loosing my own vision and voice in the process. I do have tons of repeat clients and business is very good so I am doing something right. I would often like to be much more of a Diva about it all, but I have way too much retail in my background, I am a pleaser. With that said, I do “manage” my clients giving them very strict revision rules, I will not allow the proofing game to go on forever.

    1. victoria pendragon

      There’s a difference, don’t you think, between the graphic arts, where the work is implicitly designed to fit or suit a clients needs and the fine arts where what’s considered to be the ‘artist’s vision’ is what’s being ‘sold’?
      I’m imagining that no graphic artist is going to last very long if they don’t do exactly what you do but that no fine artist will last very long doing it! : )

  9. Like Janice I WILL NOT compromise my values OR my artwork.
    I had a person buy a piece from me & THREE months later call demanding I come look @ the piece. He said there was a chip in the vintage plate that was worked into my art. I explained because my artwork is made one-at-a-time by hand, No two are alike.
    In many of my art pieces I work collective, vintage, antiques, found objects or items from nature into my work, I DO NOT alter those pieces. I use their as is characteristic to add to the character, individuality & originality of my art. Therefore you are buying as is. There is a no refund policy.
    After explaining all this to him again he demanded I look @ the piece. After taking time out of my busy schedule to meet & look @ the piece I explained again the tiny chip in the piece WAS there when he bought it, He stated he was not happy with it & wanted to know if I could paint over the chip. I told him I probably could paint the chip but I WOULDN’T that’s my art & I will NOT change it. After several harassment phone calls from him & finally him threatening to take me to court (ALL this during Christmas season) I finally told him I normally don’t BUT I would refund his money, which I did ! The only reason I did was I didn’t have time to deal with him @ that time. How ever I WILL NEVER do it again and I Will NEVER sell to this person again !!! I would love to hear more of others return policy.

  10. Because I make a good part of my income from portrait commissions I have to really listen to my clients, and get a feel for what they want. But part of the process is educating people about how I paint. If they’re looking for high realism, and a photographic style — I’m not it. I think when tensions arise that it pays to put myself in the client’s shoes. They are buying something valuable and long lasting. The best possible outcome is that they will treasure the work I’ve created. I have had to change my work from time to time, usually in minor ways, but ultimately the customer and the artist have to be happy. I’ve also found that the more I work on our relationship both before and during the painting process, the happier the client will be. I also do not send progress updates as my work changes so much from the beginning to completing a portrait. One more thing. I start with a very thorough and complete contract and get 50% up front. That makes a huge difference in committment.

    1. Barb like you I work with & many times do extra’s, etc for my clients & do all I can do to have 150% happy clients. I do several special order pieces & custom orders. On the other hand I have also turned down work as I know what I do is not what they are looking for & will not be happy. There fore I do my best to suggest them to a fellow artist who can meet their needs. The piece I spoke about (above) was not a special order piece it was a piece that was for sale in our art studio. The man seen it all finished & for sale. I have found NOT everyone knows, understands art nor do all appreciate art or artist. With this being said I think some should shop WalMart & stay out of art studios…LOL….

  11. Robert Scozzari

    I come from a graphic design background. The client thinks they are right however often, my skills and expertise know a certain direction will be the right direction. I present it and let them know my opinion. In the end it’s their money and they can decide what they like.
    Art on the other hand should be different. To commission an artist or buy an artist’s work, you should have a good understanding of what that artist does or their style.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinions and should be allowed to make choices that feel comfortable to them. The customer is allowed to ask for something out of the ordinary and the artist is allowed to say yes or no. Neither is right or wrong, just choices made on how the result of the answer makes each individual feel.
    So, I say if it feels better to me to say no, then I say no. If it feels better to say yes, then I say yes. There is no right or wrong, only differences in perspective.

  12. Customer has olways to have his opinion .Customer in not the one who will he justify the atr work he has the write to live in his space with something is good for him

  13. The customer is not always right. Period. When I owned a small yarn shop, I came up against this principle a few times, and held my ground because it was MY business, not the customer’s, and I had long-established policies regarding such things as returns and exchanges.
    As a full-time weaver (and for a few years a quiltmaker), I take on commissions on a fairly regular basis. Again, I have long since established policies regarding how I conduct myself as the maker as well as what I expect from the purchaser. I learned the hard way to be utterly clear about those policies near the beginning of any discussion of a project.
    That said, I have been known to waive the 50% deposit when the person ordering is someone I’ve worked with previously and/or is a close friend. I do not accept a commission to do something I know I will not enjoy doing, nor do I accept an order from someone I know or suspect will be difficult to work with. I’ve learned how to say no with some humor and lightness so the other person doesn’t take (much) offense.

  14. tell them politely, and with courtesy – not that they’re wrong, but that you have a different idea or viewpoint.
    The customer isn’t always right – but that same logic cuts both ways – ideas from other sources are just different ideas – deciding better or worse is somewhat subjective…
    As a designer, I’ve had to park my ego many times, and implement a client’s version even when I disagreed. When there’s disagreement about which would be better (their idea or mine) I usually test both versions to review with the client.
    Then it’s no longer hypothetical debate, we’re both looking at the same things. It moves us past the “I’m right, you’re wrong” debate that goes nowhere and creates friction.
    Surprisingly too – I’ve had instances where the client’s “bad idea” turned out to be the better solution.
    However, as a fine artist, I view myself as my own client – customers are not viewed as collaborative partners, but buyers of a finished product (I don’t collaborate with Apple on their iPod designs, but I still buy their stuff).
    Commissioned work is a little more tricky – if you don’t want customer input & approvals during the process, make the customer aware of your process prior to agreement and inform them, they are buying a piece as-is.
    As far as how to say it – say with the same courtesy you’d want to hear from the other person. Offending clients doesn’t sell artwork – You can stand by your values AND show diplomacy at the same time.

  15. When my client isn’t happy, it’s because I did something wrong–and not in the work itself, mind you, but in the delicate commission process. This has happened to me 3 times in almost 9 years of doing commission work.
    When a client approaches an artist for a commission, they don’t need to be educated by the artist but neither do they deserve to feel like the artist isn’t able to take them in hand. What a client is looking for is an adventure with the artist as guide. And, as long as I take them on that adventure, they are always right in that they love the completed work!

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