Is customer the real king?

My article in Market Express - 
Is customer the real king?, Author: Anvita Bajpai on August 1, 2013

As a working-professional, I have always kept in mind or I have always been reminded of the fact that ‘Customer is King’.
In services industry, people (who serve) are important and process is the way to avoid human error. Understanding market and customer requirement is important in product development as well. A business, at the end of the day, has to sell a product or service. This requires extensive market research, understanding customer requirements, development of world class product or service, and also a lot of effort goes in marketing and sales. Across industries, customer facing roles are appealing. Hence, sales and marketing teams have most well dressed and groomed people. After all, it’s all about impression. A customer experiences a product or service only after being influenced by the representatives of the company.
In marketing, typically one is taught that among all styles of marketing the best one is through ‘word of mouth’. If someone says good things about a product or service, customer goes about buying it – or at least strongly considers it. That is why the feature of writing reviews and giving ratings is also developed for e-commerce websites. It shows – one cares for ‘what people say’. A customer, until has his own experiences, cares about experiences of others. Many customers go by brand. The brand is again built based on quality served for a significant duration of time.
In my blog ‘Technology startup – basic  how to‘ – I have mentioned 25 areas that are important to run a business. However, the focus remains on understanding the market, doing the best job, managing finances, people, marketing, sales and legal stuff etc. But what about after-sales? 
Yes! companies do provide after-sales service also. There is an option of writing feedback in case of services, and warranty or guarantee for products. That means they care for customer’s opinion or experiences and if something goes wrong with product, they fix it for him, or give replacement. In certain situations, they even take the product back and give a credit-note so that customer can buy something else from them. In case of software products, free updates come to help the customer even without asking.
The cycle seems to be complete and the customer is assumed to be the king.
However, if one reads between the lines, then everything is just money driven. If there is so much of hype about marketing, then it revolves around the simple fact that it helps make customer buy, and brings money in return. Product or service creation is important as it is the one to be sold. But once sold, even the best companies, start to cut corners in defining customer experience after sales as it doesn’t bring money to them.
However, business owner still do fear ‘word of mouth’ publicity factors or ‘negative reviews’, for that they weigh their customers. If return/credit-note/replacement works along with a “sorry” note, its fine, otherwise they try to cool the customer down by a compensation. Some risk is taken here as well, and so a few negative experiences are shared by customers. It does impact the business. However, numbers are analyzed and focus is put on the area that is most profitable. Hence, in real, for a business ‘money’ is the king, and ‘customer’ enjoys the feeling of being a king as long as he is holding the real king.
Am I talking freakonomics? Maybe! And it happens.
Recently, when my iPad stopped working on one fine day – within 6 months from purchase – and I was guided to a service center to figure out the hardware issue and replacement as a solution for the same. The bad design for customer experience noticed was that it had to be shipped from Singapore and cannot be immediately picked from the imagine store located on the floor above the service center at Forum mall, Bangalore. As a customer, my happiness factor is only that I am receiving a new device after a few days – where I don’t have an option to choose a new color also. What about the intuitive design and human-emotional-fear-ease-comfort factors?
I may no longer feel proud on the mention of the popular cartoon ‘three apples that have changed the world‘. But it does tell me, “Boss! Since you don’t pay for device anymore, we don’t pay attention to your particular experience. We give a new device to you being bounded by guarantee, and also, so that you use it and buy new apps etc” – I read between the lines.
A similar experience with Citibank. Citi, who have been providing best online banking experience for years now, make the customer go through the pain of divorce in case of account closure – with long queue and manual process, even balance amount has no way to be received through electronic means.
I remember the parting song played while leaving from Jai Mahal Palace (by Taj), in Jaipur, Rajasthan. That is an example of after-sales service and making the customer loyal without a loyalty card, or creating a case for ‘word of mouth’ marketing.
However, mostly this is not the case. Customer faces a problem, and made to speak with customer care executives. There is a concern on customer leaving after unsatisfying response after these calls – more in certain sectors – for example, telecommunication. There is a demand for products to solve these kinds of problems as well, but focus is always more on getting the business – getting the money, the real king.