The Four Simple Acts Your Customers are Praying for

Jun 22, 2010, Written by Sue Miley

I am waiting for the yard clean-up guy to show up this morning.  We have talked back and forth on the phone and he said he was coming today but it is almost 9 am.  It is already 95 degrees out.  I wonder if he is coming.

The doorbell rings.  Yay, that must be him.  I run from door to door but don’t see a person’s head.  I look out the kitchen window and see the Fed Ex truck driving away.  Fed Ex just dropped off my business card order.  I ran out of business cards over a month ago.  It took me over a month to get business cards printed.  I called several local printers and they sent me to upload online but my logo’s looked blurred.  They couldn’t or wouldn’t help me figure it out.  I finally had to go back to the graphic designer who created my logos to order business cards.  Sara Fae Kosteva, The Fae Group, was super responsive and got them for me in under a week.  I just didn’t think I would need to go to a graphic designer every time I needed to print business cards.  She is great though.  If you need logos, brochures, etc. she is creative and responsive.   [Quality below is tainted by my photography not actual business card– it is perfect!]

I am excited to finally get the business cards, but bummed it wasn’t the yard guy.

I have been trying to hire someone to clean out my garden beds.  They are a wreck and to some hungry entrepreneur our yard should seem like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I started calling a business, that has “yard clean-up” in the business name, about a month ago to get an estimate.  After about 6-7 phone calls he came and looked and gave us an estimate.  His voicemail to me was that he didn’t think he would have time to put mulch down at the end.  I tried to explain in several messages that we had a lot of work to do and if he just scheduled it on his available days we would pay whatever his rate was for the time or project.  Yes, my gardens are a mess, but isn’t that what yard clean up businesses are looking for. 

I see a truck drive up and run out to meet him.  He actually says to me “I’m not looking forward to this.”

We also need to replace about six custom windows on our house.  The hurricanes have eroded the wood on the bottom of the windows.  I have talked to three carpenters.  Two have come and looked at the windows.  I have yet to see an estimate.  I am anticipating one today from the third guy. So now that the yard guy and the business cards are here I will start praying for this carpenter to actually sent me the estimate. 

I Thought That The Economy was Bad and Businesses Needed Work

This is just a couple of projects on the list that we have tried to hire people in the past couple of months to do.  I don’t understand it.  The economy is bad and supposedly everyone needs work.  Even if you call someone who does what you need they don’t respond.  Unless our name is on some blackball list across the whole city of Baton Rouge and surrounding areas in every industry I don’t think it is us.  Businesses are unresponsive before they meet us.

As I keep hitting these walls I try to take some learning out of it.  I have my own small business and I try to apply my learning myself as well as sharing with clients.  Here are my 4 simple steps to a positive business image (and to keep sales healthy) even during this economy:

1. Call people back whether or not you feel like it.  If you don’t have someone answering phones for you, and people leave you messages when they need your service, respond as quickly as possible but worst case scenario within 24 hours.

2. Tell the customer what to expect. If it takes a week to put a good quote together then tell the customer it will be a week and this is why.  If it is work you don’t want to do then tell the customer it isn’t what you do and offer a referral.

3. Do what you say your are going to do. Not only is it the Godly approach to “let your yes be yes and your no be no” it is also good business.  Even if you feel this business is not a good fit for you or your service, you should still communicate.  You may not want the business of this customer, but the bad impression will expand much further.  This snubbed prospective customer is going to tell a bunch of other people who NOT to call when they need new windows, yard work, or business cards.  If the best marketing is word of mouth, this can also work against you if you don’t live up to your word.

4. Take the time to refer the person or help them get the service they need. In my counseling practice I refer people all of the time.  I feel it is really important to stay within my area of expertise, therefore, many clients will be better served if they have another counselor.  I am very helpful in referring them to other colleagues that specialize in their area of need.  Some people are surprised that I spend so much time trying to help them find the right counselor.  I personally want to make sure they get the help they need.  But I also believe it is a smart business decision.  It creates good will with the client and when they have an issue that is in my area of specialty there is a higher chance they will call me at that time or refer friends who may be a good fit.  It also creates reciprocal referrals from other counselors who I have referred to.  Doing what is right is always the highest priority, but usually there are reasons it is right that will also benefit you.

I was able to get a good bit of my garden cleaned up even though we didn’t get to the mulch.  I asked the guy to put me on his schedule for his next available slot which he said was not for three weeks.  I also paid him an extra $50 to make it worth his while so he will actually come back.  Then I come to work to meet with a client sharing with me the impact the economy is having on their business.  I have to hold myself back from suggestions like, “Have you ever thought of opening up a window repair business.  Or maybe a business card printing service!”

I think my client’s may not want to throw away their 4 year college degree or their 10 years of industry experience.  So instead I say “Let’s see how we can knock down these  barriers.  It is a process, but I will stick with you through it.”  And somehow, hope is reignited and we get to work.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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