Saturday, November 15, 2008

Business is down. Could it be me?

Some years back I attended a week long seminar in Philadelphia. The topic of the seminar was Customer Focus. I spent a week in a nice convention hotel and looked at various topics day to day on what it took to attract customers and how to hang on to them. I have to admit that it has been so long ago that I have a difficult time pulling up all the topics broached by the various presenters.

I do remember one particular thing from that seminar. Some entity had done a very in depth survey. It pulled data from thousands of people in hundreds of locations. The simple bottom line of the survey was to determine what it was that caused people to leave a business as a customer and not return. I remember the take away message quite clearly. More than 70% of people stopped doing business with the company because they did not feel that they were appreciated as a customer. All it took was an ascerbic response from an employee, a surly look or many countless other interactions that interpreted as, " I really don't give a dead rat's patoot if you shop here or not."

Case in point. I have occassion, often, to recommend a service provider to my clients in the realm of home inspection, appraisal, survey, repair, etc. I referred a client recently in one of those scenarios. This client is a scientist and besides being very busy, wants input quickly and efficiently. To arrange this service was important because we were on the clock within a defined window of time to get the service provided. The client tells me that they called the provider numerous times and got no answer. This was well after the start of a business day. Finally they were able to reach the office. The first words out of the person who answered the phone was something to the effect, " My goodness, you called my office so many times I thought one of my relatives had died." Then this person went on to say, " I was taking a break and away from the phone. You know you can order our service on line at our website." They were taking this break at 8:30 AM. Then to suggest to the client that they really did not need to bother them because they could opt in on the website is way over the top.

This service provider is top drawer. Their name has been the first name out of my mouth when I am called on to recommend a service of that nature. NO LONGER. There are 20-30 other people in our town who also provide this service. I will now go elsewhere. The owner of this business probably will never know why people are opting out of doing business with them. They would be amazed that it is the telephone manners of the people representing them out front. You can be the top dog for awhile but you better appreciate the people who made you top dog, the customer, or you will be behind in a hurry.

I remember a motivational speaker named Zig Zeigler, who used to speak on this subject. In his best Baptist preacher style he would make the point. How do you get to be the top in business? How do you get where you want to be in business? You get what you want by helping others get what they want. He is absolutely right.

I will offer another war story to illustrate my point. I made a 30 year career out of promoting pharmaceuticals. There was a company along the way that introduced a drug to the market that was truly a breakthrough. It totally reformed one arm of medicine that used to cause people to have to undergo a specific surgical intervention. This drug did it's job so well that it almost completely eliminated the need for the surgery. It was the first of the H2 antagonists that treated stomach ulcers. The people who owned this drug were very stingy with samples and would advise the prescribers that they could not provide them with a whole lot of samples. Along came a British pharm company that came to the American market with a very similar drug. In almost no time at all they had taken roughly half of the other company's billion dollar market and replaced the other company as the front runner in that therapy.

How did they do that? Thier drug was superior? No. Thier drug was less expensive. No. They hired another company to co-promote the therapy. They loaded up every prescriber with samples and programs to help them treat thier patients. They simply took the market by deed and actions that suggested to the prescribers that they appreciated and wanted their business very badly. The prescribers responded the same way we all do when we encounter a pleasant sales clerk, repair person, telephone service provider, etc.

Kindness and customer focus pay off every time. Lack of attention to it will cost you your livelihood.

That is why I try to communicate to my clients that Lee Vass Realty is Client Focused. My clients come first with me and I think they know that. When they feel otherwise, I hope they will tell me instead of just leaving.

Visit me on the web at

To my clients, former, current and future: