Do You Want My Business or What?

I'm a customer who knows what I want. As it happens, I need the product or service that you offer. I don't have to be sold because I'm ready to buy. At this moment, I'm considering buying from you. But I can change my mind and decide to buy from someone else, because you're not the only game in town. You have competitors, and they offer the same thing you do, and often for a similar price. I've decided to give you a try. The sale is yours, unless you blow it.

Unfortunately, you blew it. Here's what happened:

  • I dropped into your showroom and proceeded to wander around by myself. No one ever approached me, even though several employees were standing around talking with each other the whole time I was there.
  • I arrived at your restaurant without a reservation. The hostess said there would be at least an hour wait, and made no suggestion that I consider waiting, for example, by having a drink at the bar.
  • I called your office and reached voicemail. I left a message asking for a call back. It's been three days now. No one ever called.
  • I walked around your Big Box store for 10 minutes before I found an employee. Of course, what I wanted wasn't in his department, so he pointed me in the direction of the department over there as if an invisible fence would deliver an electric shock if he left his territory to bring me there.
  • We spoke about your product or service and you said you'd send me a proposal. It's been two weeks and I haven't received it.

It's almost as if you have a Business Prevention Department, or a Customer Disservice Department. C'mon, do you want my business or what?

Not buying from you doesn't mean I'm not buying from your competitor

Now, we all know the economy has taken a hit and customers are cautious about the way they spend their money. I am too. But I am spending, and my decision not to spend money with your company had nothing to do with how much money I have. Instead, it has to do with the way your employees treated me when I wanted to buy what you were selling but couldn't find anyone interested in helping me to do that.

Here's something I do quite often. I call you. I'm going through a list of companies all offering what I'm interested in, and I'm calling each of you to check out my options and get pricing. I like to do my homework, and I'm trying to narrow down the list. That means I am looking for a reason to cross you off and it doesn't take much! You get a red line through your company name if you:

  • Answer the phone by barking the name of your company;
  • Put me on hold for no apparent reason
  • Sound as if you just woke up, or are annoyed that my call interrupted whatever you were doing;
  • Don't politely ask for, and then use, my name during our conversation;
  • Make no attempt at all to connect with me.

The vast majority of businesses I call in these situations don't know how to engage and convert what they think are price shoppers like me. They just give me the price and I say thanks, they say no problem and then we hang up. Bye-bye, precious potential dollars from this interaction, and potentially a lot more if I continued doing business with you. Bye-bye, opportunity to impress me, up-sell me, earn my referrals.

I don't really want to make it all the way through my call list. I want somebody to give me a reason to throw away my list and give them my business. I have better things to do than make five phone calls to find the company that wants my business. So c'mon! I have money to spend. Give me a reason to do business with you!

Who is taking care of your customers? Owners or Renters?

You might not know this, but some of the employees working in your company are thinking and acting like renters. Renters are employees who are just there for the paycheck. They tend to complain and watch the clock. They tend to put off until tomorrow what could be done today. To renters, I'm a transaction, not a prospect or a valued customer. It doesn't really matter to renters whether I become a customer or not, because they get paid the same amount no matter what decision I make. That's why they just go ahead and give me the price when I call, and let me slip through their fingers. Renters don't see a connection between the way they behave and the success of the business, because many of them see the company as an institution rather than an entity that lives or dies based on the way employees treat customers. And if I'm unhappy or dissatisfied, so what? Renters don't care. After all, it's not their business!

That's why I prefer to do business with an owner, and that person doesn't need to have his or her name on the front door. Employees who think and act like owners care about what their customers want. They make an effort to deliver a great experience by being thoughtful, proactive and professional. Owners tend to connect with people, because they know that connection can carry them past the immediate transaction and into a relationship that will bring more business, loyalty, and the pleasure of doing a job well and delighting the customer. Many times the attitude, passion, and competence of an owner have inspired me to do business with the company, even though I paid more.

Some employee owners are born, but you can create them, too, with effective training, good supervision, and employee guidelines that make sense for customers. At the end of the day, though, it's just common sense: deliver the service you would like if you were the customer. So c'mon! If you want my business, act like it!

If I give you my business, will you respect me in the morning?

OK. You've got me...for this transaction, at least. Now your job is to retain me. You set my expectations with our initial interactions, and I don't want to go backwards in this relationship. If you made a strong connection with me in the beginning, you need to keep reinforcing that connection. If I was impressed by your responsiveness, you need to continue to be prompt and timely. If I liked the fact that you made a terrific and useful recommendation, I am going to look to you for that. If you gave me personalized service up front, don't relegate me to automated service. And make sure that any other employee that I deal with in your company provide me with the same high level of service. As a customer, I want consistency and dependability. Don't rest on the fact that you've got me and ignore me while you look for your next prospect! So c'mon! Do you want to keep my business or what?

Earning my business and subsequently keeping my business is often predicated on the experience you and other employees provide to me. And you have more influence than you know. So if you really want my business, show me that with not just your words but your actions. I am yours to lose!

Randi Busse is a customer service speaker, trainer, author and the president of Workforce Development Group, a training and development organization that specializes in improving the customer experience, increasing customer retention, maximizing revenue and creating a culture of ownership among employees.