Customers big and small deserve the same quality of service

Jan 3, 2013   //   by Joel   //   Blog Posts, Customer Excellence, Leadership, Strategy  //  View Comments
I’ve spoken to the importance of Customer Excellence in the past, and I will continue to speak to it in the future simply because of the extreme importance of the subject matter. The costs of bringing in new customers greatly outweighs the cost of retaining existing customers, so it only makes sense to invest on both fronts. Add to it, if you do a poor job of retaining your customers, people will hear about it. In a highly connected World it takes very little effort to share poor experiences that people have with companies, which will make it even more challenging to bring in new customers. Customers are your bread and butter, and they pay your pay roll. Shouldn’t they be treated with care and respect, no matter if they’re a big fish or not?

Angry and Unhappy Customers

All customers were created equally
I will use American Express as an example of a company that understands how to treat their customers, and how to make them feel respected and valued. Regardless if you have their most basic card, or the coveted Black card, you can expect a quality of service that is the same no matter what your credit line is, no matter how much you spend with the company every year. That isn’t saying that the quantity of service that you receive is the same by any means, but you are not treated like a second rate customer just because you do not spend a large amount of money with them. I am honestly shocked at how many companies simply do not understand that quality of service needs to be the same for every sized customer.

What they spend with you may not be much to you, but it may be a lot to them
Speaking with a colleague recently, they told me of an experience they had recently experienced with a service provider. After an extensive search for a service provider that best suited their needs, the company and the service provider entered into a contract and a sizeable deposit was put down on services to be rendered. Dates were provided by the service provider for delivery and the project commenced.

Months passed, and mere weeks before the delivery date it was revealed that work had not commenced on the company’s project even though they were given the impression that the project was on track for an on time delivery. After several attempts to get traction with the project manager, the company was forced to go above them to the President. A new project manager was assigned and they were given new dates for delivery (months after the original date). As the project neared completion with only a few items left to complete, all communication from the service provider ceased. Dozens of attempts to contact them fell on seemingly deaf ears.

Eventually, they were able to get traction once again to sending a mass email to every email address the company had access to at the service provider, but the frustration levels at the company were extremely high. They had already missed their project launch once, and were in danger of missing it again. This impacts the company’s relationships with their customers who were waiting on this project’s completion. The company was given the impression that because they were not one of the service provider’s “big clients” that they were not a priority. While the money that the company had spent with the service provider may be small to the service provider, it was a large amount in the company’s budgets for the year. If you commit to a client, if you make promises to a client, they should be kept no matter if they’re your largest or your smallest customers. You never know how much influence that company may have and an experience such as this is something that people are quite eager to talk about and share with anyone who will listen. I should mention that the company (unbeknownst to the service provider) is a wholly owned subsidiary of a multi-billion dollar corporation that owns several dozen of companies globally, as a result of their poor service, this provider will not get business from any of the parent companies properties. You never know who exactly you’re dealing with, another reason to treat all customers with the same level of service.

Any time that a customer has to escalate an issue such as this is an opportunity not only to make the customer happy by giving them a very fast turnaround, but also digging into the root cause of why there was a need for an escalation in the first place. Was it a technology issue? Was it a workload issue for the project manager? Was it the project manager just wasn’t on top of things? Every issue a company faces is an opportunity for growth and improvement. Embrace it!

They just aren’t worth our time
Several years ago I was working with a business leader who completely discounted the value of his existing customer base. His thinking was that if they weren’t earning him at least $10,000 per month, they weren’t worth any of his time. I proposed an experiment where we reached out to 50 random customers from his customer base to educate them on new products and service, listen to any issues that they had (and take actions to correct them), and finally to see how we could do more business with them on an ongoing basis. While the majority of the leads that we followed were dead ends, there were a few that were very happy that we had connected with them on a personal level. That experiment ended up being worth upwards of $500,000. The business leader learned that you can never underestimate the value of Inside Sales and even though someone may not be a large customer today, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be tomorrow with a some Customer Retention Management (CRM) strategies applied.

Don’t judge a book by its cover
An experience I had when I was just 22 years of age has stuck with me since. My parents had dealt with a particular car dealership for 15 years, buying new cars every couple of years. I decided I wanted to buy myself a new pickup truck and of course I went to the dealership that my family was loyal to. I was able to pay for the truck in cash and knew exactly what I wanted. I was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and admittedly I looked very young (I still get asked for ID from time to time many years later). When I approached the first salesman, I couldn’t even get his attention. The second told me that he was too busy (He grabbed a coffee and sat to read a magazine), and the third told me that there was no way I should be there, maybe I should go to a used car dealership and get my parents to co-sign a loan for me. Insulted, I left and went to another dealership and another brand, and bought a Volkswagon the same day. It goes without saying that my immediate, and extended family stopped buying from this dealership.

As humans we make judgements based on our first impressions naturally. In business, we need to overcome the judgements that we automatically make and not treat someone based on those judgements. Customers deserve to be treated with respect, no matter what you may think of them on a personal level. I’m quite sure that you expect to be treated well by businesses you deal with professionally, and personally, does it not make sense that your customers expect the same of your business?

About Joel:
Joel brings a seasoned perspective to his work, highly focused on tailored and sustainable solutions for his clients. With nearly 20 years of professional experience specializing in SMB (Small and Medium Business), Joel has an innate ability to see through a business' problems and find customized solutions that work for them.
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