From the series: 9 Characteristics of Great Customer Experiences
Many of us say that one company is easier to do business with than another.
But what does that really mean?
Here's an example of a Dallas property management company (I live in this building now) that is "easy to do business with."
- I screwed up my rent payment the first month by $5. I did it again the next month. I got a call from the office that month gently reminding me what to pay for rent and that I could drop off a check for $10 to cover the past 2 months when I had a chance - no rush. Easy peasy.
- Another time, I was traveling for work and tried to pay online, but the rent amount online was wrong. I called to find out what to do and they told me to pay the balance when I got back from traveling. No stress, no rush. I found a way to pay them the full amount online and ontime, but they were understanding about the entire situation.
- We pay utilities directly to utility company, but if we are late, we pay through our rental management companies. When I'd forget I'd get a notice on my door that was polite, yet firm. This happened until I went onto an auto pay system and never missed a payment again, but the management company never once snapped at me about it.
No drama. No stress.
Now, here's an example of what it means to be "difficult to do business with":
I rented an apartment in San Francisco for 11 years. It was the same apartment in the same complex. I paid my rent pretty much on time; I messed up 3 times due to strange circumstances. And if you think about it, screwing up only 3 times over 132 rent periods is a 2% margin of error. Honestly, that's not bad.
Here's what happened:
- I was accused of paying rent late because the online payment system didn't transfer the money by the 5th of the month. Apparently, it was my fault that I didn't take this into account when I used the online payment system the rental company setup.
- I came home from a business trip in the middle of the month to find an eviction notice on my door. It was there for 2 days and I had no clue this was coming. Apparently, a check from a project I worked on fully cashed one day after the rent check was presented, and unfortunately, the rent check bounced 3 days later. It was an honest error. When I went to pay rent, I asked the management company why they didn't just call me a couple of weeks ago to alert me of the mistake. They said that it never occurred to them. They were following procedure - issue an eviction notice to collect rent when it wasn't paid on time.
- One month while I was unemployed was particularly difficult, and I was paying what I could towards rent. I think I had over 50% covered that month by the 5th, but I wasn't sure how the rest would pan out. I called the management company to inquire how we could work this out. A representative told me to call the welfare office and get on assistance or move out. I would have accepted that if the apartment complex wasn't 50% occupied and they were offering reduced rent rates to new renters. They could offer free months to new renters, but couldn't be bothered to work with an existing resident who paid full rent ontime for 3 years.
Apparently my loyalty - paying on time each month and keeping my apartment in good shape with minimal maintenance - meant nothing to them. It was all about the money.
See the difference?
Where I live now in Dallas conducts easy business.
Where I lived in San Francisco conducted difficult business.
There are 4 traits of businesses that are "easy to do business with":
- Give you a new glass of wine and not charge you
- Charge you for 2 glasses of wine that you ordered (because you ordered 2 - you should have thought about what you liked longer before ordering in the first place, as if we all know what we like or not like before tasting something.).