“Customers aren’t always right … sometimes they fib”

It isn’t easy to untangle why a client’s customer fibs. What I must do, is talk with a lot of the customer’s endusers.

  • Hard to do if the customer is aware of what you are doing.
  • Hard to do if your Sales VP is unaware of what you are doing.

Solution: The client must pay an unbiased outsider to untangle a customer’s fishy reasoning.

More than 14% of my end-user interview projects have involved fishy reasoning by my client’s customers.

None of the end-users interviewed discovered my clients’ identity.

All the Sales VPs approved of the project before I began.


    • In more than half of these projects, internal forces fudged the truth.
    • In some, after the truth was untangled, the client and their customer collaborated.
      They then captured a larger share of the enduser industry’s profit pool

Case Example

The Case of the Neglected Profit Pool

Susan, the new Head of Bus. Dev., inherited an out-of-control project and believed the customer was stretching the truth. The project had begun a year ago with a panic call from the Sales VP.

“Help, the sole customer for our SPA catalyst says we need to reduce the price by 10%. If we don’t, an emerging process will replace the SPA catalyst process in the refinery industry.”

Susan stopped the experiments. She engaged me to help her understand why endusers (refinery managers) wanted to replace the SPS catalyst process.

New knowledge Susan gained from my project

  • The endusers had had no intention of replacing the SPA catalyst process with the “emerging process.”.
    • Endusers had evaluated the “emerging process” and found no cost advantage over SPA catalyst process
    • Endusers said the owner of the “emerging process” was, wait for it … my client’s sole customer!
  • Root of sole customer’s fib was a foolish internal decision.
  • My analysis of the profit pool for the SPA catalyst process indicated that Susan, collaborating with the sole customer, could raise the price of SPA 20%.


  • The sole customer’s sales agents sold the price increase to the refineries.
  • 13 years later: SPA process remains the top choice of refineries.