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"How to Be a Good Customer"

by Dave Balch, "The Stay-at-Home CEO"™

(c) 2002, A Few Good People, Inc.

There is plenty written about how to GET good customers and how to KEEP good customers, but what about how to BE a good customer? Do you really WANT to be a pain? Do you really WANT other people to want your business?

You should.

Why? Because you need the products and services of others in order to provide YOUR product or service.

Let’s say your computer goes on the fritz. You call your favorite repairman (he has done a good job in the past); he comes over because it’s too heavy to lug to a repair shop, and fixes it. Next day, same problem. Uh-oh. You don’t have time for this! You paid good money to have the machine repaired! So you call him back and, when he gets there, you start yelling at him, threaten to call the Better Business Bureau, tell everyone you know, and stop payment on the check. (Okay, I’m exaggerating to make my point!)

What do you think will happen the next time your computer needs repair? You may find that it takes longer for him to "fit you into his schedule". In the meantime, however, you have no computer… would that have an impact on your business?

The same goes with all of your suppliers: raw material vendors, printers, designers, and copywriters for your brochures, consultants… the list goes on and on. Where would you be without those products and services?

"Oh," you say, "I’ll just find someone else." Why would you want to spend all of that time finding and "training" someone new? We all know how hard it is to find a good supplier and get them to treat you the way you want/need to be treated.

Speaking of training, in a very real sense you are a ‘customer’ of your employees’ services, aren’t you? If you are a bad ‘customer’ (aka ‘bad boss’) your employees will want to find a different customer (i.e. find another job). What will THAT cost you? Plenty; not only in money, but in time spent advertising, interviewing, and training, as well as lost opportunity.

So what do you have to do to be a good customer? Here are some words for you: considerate, tolerant, polite, complimentary, empathetic, and helpful. You need these people! Treat them the way you’d like to be treated by your customers. In the computer repair example above, sure you’re frustrated. But consider that the guy is human and mistakes are made occasionally. Some things are out of his control… the second problem may actually be a new problem that just looks like the first one. Are you always perfect? Probably not, so don’t expect everyone else to be.

Here is a powerful technique: go out of your way to give compliments when they are due. Businesses are inundated with complaints, but few people take the time to compliment. My wife makes a point of giving compliments and, when she does, the reaction is usually quite surprising and very rewarding.

Good employees and good vendors are like gold. Don’t chase them away by being a ‘bad customer’. It will cost you big time.

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© Copyright 2003, A Few Good People, Inc.
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