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":
1. Decisions are driven by customer relationships - not by money or metrics
When a business bases its decisions solely on money (revenue) or metrics, that business won't be around very long. This is why big businesses end up failing. They don't get into the details and just look at the bottom line of a spreadsheet at the money or the metrics - and money and metrics don't always tell the full story about customers being happy.
People generally consider the entire situation rather than just the bottom line result when figuring out what the best solution could be. If the rental management company in SF looked at my situation in any of those rental disputes, rather than looking only at the revenue or metrics for if I paid or didn't pay, they would have realized that I was a generally good customer and maybe a mistake may have occurred.
In the case of the eviction notice while I was traveling, the representative was totally embarrassed when he looked up my payment record and saw that I was a good paying customer, living there for close to 10 years. He knew that what the management company did was wrong and there was no need to hang a letter like that on my door. A phone call reminder would have sufficed.
As another example, many companies are offering free content and advice to customers before they buy anything - free 30-minute consultations, free books, free ideas. It's not about the money - it's about showing the customer that you care about them and can offer that customer value. That develops a relationship and focuses on the customer needs - not your own bottom line. (Your bottom line will increase when you demonstrate value to others).
2. Decisions driven by what the customer needs and the best way to get that - not the current process/technology
For example, let's say you call a technology company to buy a product. You have never worked with Company A before, but you have heard that company has great products, so you give them a ring.
5 days later, Company A calls you back. Needless to say, you forgot why you called Company A in the first place and you are confused why they are calling you. Or else, you already met with Company A's competitor and because Company A seemed to blow you off, there is no longer any reason to talk with them.
What if I told you that Company A takes 3 days to validate data about a new customer before sales can call? The lead needs to be researched, validated and confirmed manually before being released for follow-up.
Now, that person could have also called Company A directly. But what if I told you that sometimes, sales doesn't answer the phone to take a new customer? Sure, the pre-sales center will answer the phone, but what if sales just won't talk to you?
In both cases, customers aren't first; the internal processes and technology challenges are considered first.
Sometimes companies forget that processes, technology, and systems don't pay your salary. You need living customers.
3. Decisions focus on efficiency rather than equality
Why do 15 or less items lines exist in supermarkets? Why are there deposit lines only in banks? Not all customers require equal attention.
Notice when you wait in a line for a long time to get an answer for a quick question you get antsy, especially if there is a single line for all problems. You aren't annoyed with the line or the length. You are annoyed with the inefficiency because you only need to drop something off, buy something quickly, or submit a quick form.
How many times have you been to the post office and waited in line for 20-30 minutes to get a book of stamps? A book of stamps - they used to be sold through an automated machine or at a separate counter. When you wait in line with the insured overnight packages that will take 3-10 minutes to process, you do get frustrated because you don't see why your 2-minute transaction needs to wait.
Call centers divide calls for efficiency. The automated response and selection systems/IVRs help route calls to the best call center to speed up call time. This helps keep customers satisfied, not wasting their time. Sure, pressing too many buttons can be cumbersome, but if it gets you 0-2 minutes of wait time, it may be worth it.
4. Decisions focus on everyone winning
When the company believes that only they should win - that's when the company lost.
Business isn't about the company; it's about the customers. I have heard many debates from company owners on this - that the customer sometimes is wrong. That may be technically true, but the customer is right about how they feel and their perception of the company and the situation. And there isn't any reason for someone to win or lose. Everyone can win and succeed in any situation.
Companies that claim the customer is wrong just want validation that they are right. And what does being right get you in the end? You won the battle, but you lost the war. Other customers hear about what happened, they make a judgment about your company winning at any cost, and they don't do business with you because you are difficult to do business with.
Here's an example - you go to a restaurant and order a glass of wine. You get the wine, you try it, and it doesn't taste good or just wasn't what you were looking for. So you ask if you can change the wine.
The restaurant has 2 options:
- 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.).
The restaurant that is easy to do business with will not charge you for the wine.
It's not hard to be easy to work with - you just have to shift your thinking and your company's culture to focus on the customer. The customer should be the focus of your effort.
And if you don't see why - remember who really pays your paycheck (the customer).
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Posted by: ISF | Thursday, July 04, 2019 at 02:27 AM