Your Most Valuable Assets
Feb 9, 2011 10:12 AM,
by George Petersen
Walking around last month’s NAMM show, or any major industry tradeshow, it’s hard not to be struck by the sheer volume of gear on display. But we’re a technology industry and technology drives the market. And these winter months that traditionally represent the slow season for many contractors also provide a good time to stop and reflect on what’s needed for the upcoming season. Start working on those shopping lists now!
Items in your inventory, (ranging from portable systems for rental gigs to new backroom stock ready for client delivery) your shop building, and your vehicles are all obvious business assets. Yet while much of any company’s emphasis is on these tangibles, there’s another asset that cannot and should not be ignored: your customers. In fact, when all else is said and done, your customers are probably your most important business attribute. And just how important? Very.
I’d like to offer a few real-life examples that happened to me that should illustrate this point. When I first made the switch to high-speed Internet service, I called my provider of 10-plus years. They offered me a “deal” that was about twice the $22 I had been paying for dial-up. I asked the guy on the phone if they had any deals for a long-term customer—not that price should ever be the sole consideration. He responded rudely, with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. My response was simply to hang up and go with a different provider. And after a 10-year history, this loyal customer was gone.
Another instance involved my cable company. I originally started out with a local firm (actually it was city-operated) and even though the price was slightly higher than the competition, it was my way of supporting local enterprise—an investment in the community. Eventually the deal went south (perhaps municipalities should not be in the cable business, anyway) and the franchise had been picked up by a large corporation. No problem there, but after a couple years, I got a notice that my service rate was being doubled. I called back, trying to get a clarification or at least better deal. I was connected to some rude fellow (his last job might have been with an Internet company) who essentially said “too bad, that’s the new rate.” As a previously loyal customer, I didn’t respond well to the attitude, cancelled the service, and went with a satellite provider, which was the only other option in my area.
A few days later, I visited my old cable company to return their hardware. The woman who was working the front counter seemed shocked by my experience and said had I come by and talked to them earlier, something could have been worked out. But by then I already had a satellite dish installed (great service, by the way) and there was no turning back.
The moral here is that customers are perhaps the most important assets to any business. As any successful contractor can tell you, a customer is hard to get and easy to lose. Loyal, repeat clients are a rare breed. Make sure your entire staff—at every level and not just sales managers—understands this point. This may be obvious to you, your office manager and your sales engineers, but depending on the situation, they might not be the first point of contact when a client has an issue, as was the case with my cable and e-mail providers. A short meeting (or at least an e-mail) with your staff, outlining procedures for handling problem calls doesn’t require a lot of effort on your part, but just might make a difference at some point in the future. Give it a try. It’s a small investment in your time that might really pay off someday. Because a good customer is a terrible thing to lose.
George Petersen is also the director of the TECnology Hall of Fame. Read George’s SVC blog, Sounding Board.