I do not rant often. I am basically easy going and I aim to be a good customer. In general I appeal to people’s better natures rather than harangue them and importantly, I pay my bills. I pay them on time and I won’t rip people off so if they have done extra work I offer extra remuneration. I don’t expect people to drop everything and dance to my tune; I am happy to wait a bit if my project is not sizeable or urgent. Importantly I am also loyal if someone gives me good service I will stick with them.
All this means I am a customer worth having.
So why do I want to rant today? Because in the last month I have been on the receiving end of bad customer service from two people who run tiny businesses and should value someone like me.
My work does not often come in the massive chunks that will pay for my supplier’s holiday but my pound deserves respect. When I ask someone to do something I expect them to get back to me; to tell me what is going on; to tell me when they can do the work; to do what we agree when they say; to own up to mistakes. In other words I want an adult relationship; a productive relationship.
So why am I ranting?
One supplier asks how high he should jump when the intermediary who introduced us asks for something. When I ask and ask again he has been having trouble with his email and has not picked up my message. He promises response but it does not come when he says. I ask again but get no response. And once I have asked a third time….I start to feel frustrated.
The other supplier whom I have used before this time I contacted via Twitter (long story and it was appropriate at the time); he never came back to me. I contacted him a second time and found he had forgotten because of a domestic circumstance that required me to be flexible and patient. So I was. Did he come back to me when he promised “No”. So I contacted him again. By this time the “not urgent small job” had been waiting two or three months. I then get a response to discover he is going on holiday that day. I ask when he will be back and please can we fix a date for the work. There is no answer.
Both these guys do not do slapdash work but they are displaying a slapdash attitude. There may be more to it; I don’t know because they don’t talk to me. I do know that I am about to find different suppliers; I do know that I will tell the girl who referred me to them to me how disappointed I am; I do know that as a referral I cost them little to secure but replacement customers might cost money in advertising and schmoozing time; and I do know that I will not recommend them to anyone in the future. Quite the opposite.
I am currently dealing with a new supplier, again a small business, and I am delighted. Why? This guy believes in communication. He is doing a job for me which will maybe take one day but spread out over four weeks. Three weeks in and I have had an update by email every Friday morning. Did I ask for it? No. Do I like it? Yes. He makes the previous two charlatans look like real amateurs.
I have another supplier who persuaded me to do something one way. It didn’t work and I should have stuck with my original idea. I asked him to do the work a different way. Yesterday I went to collect the item to find that he won’t charge me. It was a joint decision and I went along with it but he looked at how important I am to his business and decided to fund it. What fantastic and embarrassingly good service. Will I go anywhere else in future? Of course not, he has secured my work for the long term.
I am not telling you anything you don’t know.
As a business mentor I talk with my clients about keeping existing customers happy; customers who form the basis of our businesses, who tell their friends, who even cut us some slack (if we need it and ask nicely). They may either have big jobs coming along themselves or have friends that do. Keeping customers happy is often not about the product you sell but how you sell it; how you deliver the work; how you communicate and most of all maintaining a strong relationship, treating people as if they matter because they do. All sound business principles, simple to do and very low cost.
We all know these basic business concepts but I ask you four questions:
- What are your criteria for customer service?
- How do you measure your practice against those criteria?
- What do you do with the results?
- If I asked one of your smaller value customers what they thought of you what would they say?
In my case the four guys I have described do not offer unique services; in all cases I can go elsewhere. Their work only differentiates itself for me if I receive customer service that stuns me; astonishes me; makes me feel glad to be their customer. In two cases that is true and I will sing their praises to the world. The other two…….will they even notice when I walk away?