Anyone in business will tell you that the most important route to success is going the extra mile and keeping the customer happy by giving them what they think they want.
As a commercial photographer I know this better than most since in the digital age everyone’s a photographer and the majority of clients have a preconceived idea of how they want to look or how their product should be presented.
By listening to what they expect and guiding them around the practical obstacles I get the chance to build a relationship and show them the value of using a professional expert and establishing the magic of rapport.
This kind of personal attention is what sets small business apart from the impersonal multi-nationals who generally seem to adopt the attitude of we’ll give you what we want to, not what you need.
Having spent yesterday afternoon waiting for a British Gas engineer to carry out a routine central heating inspection; don’t you love the way they give time slots and then just before it’s due to elapse ring to say they can’t get there.
I got a call at 10 to 6 in the evening, apologising that they hadn’t been able to fit me in and offering me the first call of a 2 hour slot the next morning.
Accepting that “stuff happens” and it must be difficult to schedule so many jobs I agreed but as my allotted time disappears into the distance, I guess I’ve been stood up again.
The trouble is that this promise was pure British Gas “hot air”; they hadn’t told the engineer what they had agreed with me, so his work sheet said between 8 am and noon, he finally turned up at 10-15am, not his fault.
The main lesson we can all learn is not to make promises you can’t keep and certainly don’t lie, always be aware of the damage failing to keep them can result in.
I know that as a small business I always try to go the extra mile and give added value to my customers, if big business replicated this attitude people may be inclined to spend more with them and growth would begin to return to the economy.
The other lesson is when you do mess up, and it happens; make sure that your apology is sincere and any action necessary is prompt. “I’ll get my supervisor to call you”, just doesn’t cut it especially when they don’t bother to ring back.
Why do these utility companies spend so much on telephone cold calling and doorstep selling when they can’t supply what they offer, my list is growing Talk – Talk, British Gas, all credit to BT who at least try to resolve complaints with BT Care.
Maybe these large corporations should be buying their customer relations training from the small businesses that know how to treat their valuable clients properly.
My good friend Nigel Morgan at Morgan PR frequently posts about large organisations ignoring the power of social media and how great an impact this can have on reputation if you ignore Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and the myriad of other social networks your shareholders could be exceedingly unhappy.
In some ways I’m grateful that my time waiting in for British Gas hasn’t been entirely wasted and I’ve written this blog post.