Treating all customers the same and treating every customer well is putting a bottom limit on frustration – you can’t go too bad if you do it. Treating customers differently gives you the opportunity to make your best ones love you.
In college I only studied Intro to Marketing for one semester, and it was far from my main focus. What I noticed, though, is that all textbooks and materials tell you that the customer is always right, you should always listen to the customer. Well, not always. Not if this customer makes you spend double the effort on him just to not hate you. Instead, you can devote this time to invent something for the customers that love you. As Seth Godin says, they will talk about you and bring many more after them.
Where I come from, in elementary schools they treat all students the same. They put a bottom limit on quality. They ensure that every student is educated and literate. What they don’t ensure is that schools produce geniuses and achievers. For this to happen, you need to remove the top limit, you need to give students the freedom to explore, the resources and the attention.
In my daily job I sometimes come in contact with customers who always complain about something and want a solution ASAP. They threaten to abandon your product and go to the competition. I say let them go. You have two choices to spend your time – convince them they are wrong and your product is good, or work on the product and make it awesome. You could also work on a program to provide benefits to your VIP customers (the ones who love you). This second choice would be a much better investment than the first one.
This could probably be applied everywhere people are involved – HR, education, communications. Don’t introduce bottom limits. Remove the top limits instead.
UPDATE: Here’s a very good article by Seth Godin that I think relates to this post.