If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: “The customer is always right.” However, I don’t think anyone has ever said that the customer is always reasonable.

My favorite examples of the untruth of the second statement come from when I worked in state parks. In one park, the best campsite was next to a babbling brook. One camper demanded that we turn off the stream at night. At that same park, another camper asked that we spray the bugs. Another park I worked at was the most remote in Vermont. A camper was horrified that she had no cellphone service and all we had to offer was a pay phone being slowly reclaimed by the forest about a mile from the park. She more or less wanted to set up shop in the park office so she would be able to work.

Sometimes, it’s just not possible to make the customer happy. Nature doesn’t provide streams with off switches, and if you are that offended by the sounds of nature, you should probably stay indoors where they can’t get at you. Ditto for bugs. Isn’t getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and blackflies part of the camping experience? And if you can’t leave work behind on your vacation … Well, you probably shouldn’t physically leave work. Ever. Consider living under your desk.

Of course, I’ve seen customer service (or lack thereof) from the other side too. For instance, in the past I’ve had a credit card be compromised and had to get a new one. The company kept telling me they couldn’t send me a new card until I verified my address – even after I had called them multiple times and done so. I had to wonder if they were at all invested in keeping my business.

On the flip side, I wanted to return a DVD to an online retailer, because I had purchased it as a Christmas gift for my brother, only to find out he already owned it. (I did the same thing to my sister last Christmas with a book. Clearly I need to step up my holiday gift-buying game this year.) The retailer not only promptly refunded my money, but also told me to keep the DVD. I didn’t actually want to keep it, mind you, but thought it was nice of them all the same.

While you can’t satisfy every customer demand, obviously it’s in your best interest to pursue excellence in customer service. A happy customer is one who will keep coming back to you for their produce needs – and who will also be likely to send their friends and family to you as well.

You have to know your customers to be able to reach out to them successfully, and it’s important to consider how demographics are changing. Turn to page 6 to read more about how you can approach marketing to an ever-changing consumer.

Stephanie Peake