Proper Care and Feeding of Your Customer

Every business has customers. Large businesses have customers within the business. Customers are what makes the wheels turn for business. How those customers are treated reflects on how the customers treat the business. It is a symbiotic relationship in some ways.

Business customers outside a business generally have the privilege of doing business with a number of companies which sell a product they need. That product may be anything from cleaning services to internal watch springs and gears. in respect to this thought, it is important to keep ones mind on the business at hand.

The closer a business gets to its customers, the more attention needs to be payed to interaction with the customer. The customer might decide the business contact is their soul mate, and wants to share life’s most intimate details with the contact, usually a business representative of some fashion.

Looks are deceiving. You have no idea who your customer really is.

The business representative always needs to remember this is a business transaction, no matter how personal the customer wants to be. In this mindset, the following guidelines should be in effect.

1. Gossip with the customer is losing business. Business relationships come and go. You do not want to end a relationship with a customer who knows things about your business and perhaps personal life you wouldn’t want shared in public. Talking generally and amiably about, sports, the economy, or the weather are safe subjects. Politics, religion, and other similar subjects are beyond off limits.

2. Keep your end of the conversation aimed on the business you are there to transact. Time is money. There is a line between between friendliness and wasting time you could be spending with another customer.

3. Over talking is bad for the business and the bottom line. Talking just to talk can lead to uncomfortable conversation, or conversation you may later wish had never taken place. Some customers have days where they are withdrawn and want little interaction. Be aware of your customers wishes, and your conversation.

4. Keep it professional. Sometimes it is okay to get a little loose, and joke around. Other times one off color comment can lose a valued account or customer. Off color, race, sex, and other jokes along these lines are taboo with your customer, even if they initiate them. You do not have to contribute to the conversation.

5. Don’t waste the customers time. Hanging around too long because of an attractive worker close by, or it’s only a few more minutes until lunch is bad business. The world if full of attractive people who are looking for someone like you. Don’t mess up a business relationship with a relationship that should not have happened. Spend those extra a few minutes reviewing your next customer, or going over what you could have done better with this customer.

6. Ensure the customer is comfortable. If you are busy and behind schedule, that is not your customers problem. Your customer needs to feel important to you, and know you have time for them. Appearing hurried or flustered raises red flags in the customers mind.

A good story about good business customer relations is a story of an ex neighbor who ran a wrecking yard. One of the car companies came out with a special anniversary edition car he fell in love with. The closest dealership that had one of the scarce cars on the lot was over two hours away.

Being frugal, he combined reasons for the trip. He would transport car parts to a wrecking yard a friend owned in that city, pick up two cars, and visit the dealership too. The next day, he loaded up a trailer with car parts, and headed out of town.

His parts transaction took longer than he had planned, and it was about two hours before the car dealership closed for the day. Rather than get cleaned up first and have the dealership close on him, he went straight to the dealership.

When the first salesman approached him, he told the salesman exactly why he was there. He was interested in buying this special edition car that the dealership said in a phone call they had on the lot. The salesman, after looking him over, decided he couldn’t afford such a car, but was polite enough to show the car to him. They discussed the car, and it’s attributes for a few minutes, exchanging thoughts on the car.

He told the salesman he wanted to take the car for a test drive, to see if the car was all it was claimed to be. The salesman who was so willing b.s., was not ready for this question. Looking at a man in scruffy worn work clothes, the salesman decided he could not afford the car and denied the test drive because it didn’t look like he could afford to buy any new car.

The neighbor asked the salesman to follow him to his truck and trailer. When they arrived the neighbor reached into the cab and pulled out a gym bag. They walked back over to the car and the neighbor unzipped the bag. Tipping the bag over, wrapped stacks of $100.00 bills fell out, covering the hood of the car. The stacks of money totaled the price of the car plus about thirty percent.

The salesman was overwhelmed. After some blubbering, he said he would be happy to go out on a test drive. Putting the money back into the bag, the neighbor said, no, he’d changed his mind, and he walked back to his truck and trailer and left the lot.

In this story, the salesman was so busy thinking about how great a salesman he was, he completely lost focus on what would what he was there for. The salesman lost what would have been a major sale, maybe bigger than this months commission.

When I listen to junior salesman give their pitch, I remember the wrecking yard owner and his dream car. He did buy one a few weeks later from another dealership. Often salesmen are so busy peddling a line, they either forgot, or never learned why they are part of the conversation.

Of course my neighbor venting his frustration told me and others about his terrible experience at the car lot. All of us listeners, of course shared the story, because that is what we do.

Prostituted Customer

I feel like a company has tried to buy me off. They did so quite generously too I might add. Is this the new way of doing business?

I am a Celiac. I consume more than a ‘normal amount’ of a certain product because of the limited number of manufactured foods I am able to eat. The product in question is an oatmeal based snack bar. Over the last year, the bar(s) in their individual wrapper have been shrinking. The price remains the same.

I started thinking about what a waste this is. Shrinking product size makes excessive landfill waste because the packaging is over-sized for the product. Plus I get hungry faster – less calories per serving. The idea started to bother me.

Products that are grown such as vegetables, fruits, and meats do not shrink if the cost of farming and ranching go up. Why do manufactured products need to shrink? Can’t they be real, or is it falsely believed consumers do not notice?

Because I do not mind having my opinions heard, I emailed the company at their customer service email address. Unfortunately for the company and myself, the person who was assigned to help me, appeared to have limited reading and comprehension ability and seems to be inexperienced in public relations.

I wrote in my email, over the past year their product has shrunk. I would prefer they return the product to its original size and raise the price. Sounded reasonable to me. I am willing to pay a little more for the original product size.

The first reply stated I was mistaken, and the product size has not changed in the last year (Ok, the last months maybe?). The last year was the time frame I used. I am reading the reply and thinking, ‘I eat a number of these each and every week. The open space in the package has grown by almost an inch, or about twenty percent over the last year. I get hungry sooner after eating them than before.’

Ok, I thought, perhaps there is an understanding gap between what I wrote and what was read on the other end. I decided to rephrase my email comments. I explained perhaps I was not clear in my first email about my concern and here is a rehash.

The product is a food, and therefore a major part of my diet. Because it has shrunk, I now have to eat something else to replace those calories that are missing when compared to your product from a year ago. I would prefer, you raise the price, and keep the product size the same.

The second reply echoed the first reply. The product has not changed in size. Also a check would be sent to me for my time and my emails. This email was a little frosty, imo.

This reply generated a third email from me. I stated I did not want any coupons or money from the company. All I want is to make the company aware of the idea, that shrinking product may not be the best answer in all cases.

This last email was ignored. Within a week or ten days, a check showed up in the amount of ten dollars addressed to me from the company I traded emails with. Really?

In defense of the company and the person who was unfortunate enough to have to respond to my email, I am sure they did their best, and I am sure they followed company policy.

The tone of the replies was a little brusque, but I lend that to the apparent inexperience of the person handling my email. A customer may not alway be right, but it helps to actually read and understand what is being said, before writing a flip reply.

So now, instead thanking a customer for making a suggestion to their business on how better to market their product, I feel like I have been prostituted. Ignore the customers concerns and suggestion.

Send the whiner a few dollars (against his wishes) to shut him up.