It is a safe bet to assume that most small business owners like to, you know… have business. Business is how you make money. You can use money to pay your staff. You can also use it to pay rent, maintain vehicles, purchase supplies, etc. It’s an important thing to have if you want to keep your business, staff, vehicles, and so on. This is a proven fact.
I don’t really delve into my Executive Assistant related duties on the blog often, but a recent experience with a series of contractors taught me a valuable lesson. A business lesson.
Every now and then SmallBox President and CEO Jeb Banner might need me to help take care of something around his house – a plumber here, feed the cats there, standard assistant type stuff. Once it began warming up outside I started looking into finding someone to complete some repairs on Jeb’s wicked-awesome pool. No sweat, right? I just dove right in and started making calls to round up some quotes.
After four no-shows, two no-quotes, uncountable ignored calls, a series of... intense phone conversations and six weeks I finally find someone who is not only pleasant and professional to deal with, they are also willing to get paid to do some work. Work you can easily imagine most companies fighting each other for, assuming we live in a world that makes any sense at all.
There were literally hundreds of times during this experience when this image flashed in my head:
One thing about the pool contractors I spoke with (the ones that actually answered their phones) that was consistent was their availability. Each discussion went something like this:
Pre-Quote Me: "I need to have X, X, X, X and X done at X property. Before you come out for the quote, I wanted to see what your availability was like over the next month. I don't really want to waste your time if you're too busy."
Pre-Quote Contractor: "Oh don't worry about it. We're available. I'll be out to look at the pool soon."
(a few days pass)
Post-Quote Me: "Any idea when we can get started?"
Post-Quote Contractor: "It'll be at least two months. We've been booked solid since spring."
Depending on how you look at it, I was either lied to because they know I can't complete these repairs on my own and have no other choice, or I was being held hostage because I can't complete these repairs on my own and have no other choice. Basically the same thing, with one being a little more sinister than the other. I'm not really cool with either of those options. This does not make for a good customer experience.
I felt like I was being trolled by whole businesses!
I hate to use this word, but the experience was almost Kafkaesque. I was the victim of overly effective marketing, fighting against an endless series of gatekeepers, filled voicemail inboxes, and guys in overly large trucks.
I used to work at a large local consumer-supported-reviews company, and one of the things that I found out pretty early on was that contractors hated receiving reviews on quotes. After all, they haven't even done any work yet! How can you review a meeting?! Well, really it's simple – it's a review of the customer experience, an area that they typically didn't really need to work on because it's not like you can do the job. You just have to sit there and take it.
If you are reading this blog then I probably don't need to tell you that it's 2014, but it really seems like there are a number of businesses out there haven't received the update and don't realize that everyone can talk about them online and will if they have a good (or bad) enough experience. Marketing is one thing, serving your customers is another. You could have the best marketing team the world has ever known, but if you consistently deliver horrible service all that people will hear about are horrible experiences, because that's all people will talk about.
Those companies that don't step up to improve their client experience will, in time, lose all of their business to companies who know how to turn a great customer experience into the base of their marketing efforts – and business is how you make money. You can use money to pay your staff. You can also use it to pay rent, maintain vehicles, purchase supplies, etc. It’s an important thing to have if you want to keep your business, staff, vehicles, and so on.
This is a proven fact.
Had a ridiculously great (or Kafkaesque) customer experience lately? Share your story in the comments below.