When is a Customer More Than Just a Customer?

Running your own service-based small business can be overwhelming. It often seems like the list of things to do never ends. You’re not only responsible for doing the actual part of your business that makes money (like selling a house or doing an inspection), you’re also the person who takes care of all the “behind the scenes” stuff that comes along with running a business. Sometimes it can be enough to make you scream.

picture of the scream (about their home inspection)

Handling your very own customer service department is one of those scream-inducing duties. Many (most?) of us dread the thought of having to take on this task. Doing your “actual” job is easy. Having to deal with customers after the fact, when they may have questions or complaints, that’s the really trying part.

After all, you got in this business to work and make money, not to deal with problems. If you wanted complaining, you could’ve stayed working at your last job…

Customer service is hard. It’s time consuming, can end up stressing you out and it can often cost you money. Not the best recipe for a successful business or a happy life.

But customer service is also an incredibly important aspect of running a successful business. In a small business, the way we deal with our customers (the happy ones as well as the other ones) can often spell the difference between business life or death. Ignore your clients at your own peril.

Run an effective customer service department and it can lead to a thriving business. Piss off your clients on a regular basis and you’ll soon find yourself with nothing but a handful of angry, former clients bashing you and your business on social media.

angry customer punching her home inspector

Certainly not the best way to market your small business to the masses.

Yes, customer service can be a drain (physically and mentally) on the small business owner. It can end up costing money, in actual expenses as well as the cost of the time involved in performing the duties of a customer service representative. But it would be a mistake to think of customer service in only negative terms.

Effective customer service can prove to be an important part of a successful marketing strategy.

Think about the businesses that you frequent. How many of them get your repeat business simply because of the way that they treat you? There are probably any number of businesses conveniently located close to your home, but, given a choice, there is probably one that you choose over the others.

Now think about the businesses that you despise and wouldn’t give your money to if they were the last store on earth. You probably have that feeling about them because of the way that they’ve treated you in the past. Many people are now “cutting the cord” of their cable provider because they feel that the cable companies are treating them not as valued customers but as simply profit centers, taking as much money from their “customers” as they possibly can.

squeezing your customer

The thing to remember about customer service is that you can always work to make it better. If you’re so busy that you’re not able to answer all your phone calls, then hire someone who can. If you can’t answer all your emails in a timely manner, find a solution to that problem. Maybe you need to work out a schedule to follow to make sure it gets done on a regular basis or maybe hire an assistant. If you’re so overwhelmed that you can’t get your paperwork done on time, then figure out a way to take some of your less important duties off your plate so you can concentrate on the work that only you can do.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over, just like everyone else in your industry, then what’s the difference between you and your competition? If you’re all the same, where’s the benefit in someone using you over your competition?

all you home inspectors look the same

The only way to differentiate your business from the competition and move forward is to do something that’s outside the norm. If everyone else treats their customers like that’s all they are, just a customer, then do something different. Successful business owners treat their customers like they’re the most valuable part of their business.

Treat them otherwise and they’ll soon be the most valuable part of someone else’s business.

You can treat your customers like they don’t have a choice, but in the long run, customers always have a choice.

Seth Godin

What’s been the biggest problem you’ve ever diffused? Did it turn out to be a win, or were you simply happy that the problem client went away quietly?
Please share anything that you think might help the rest of us with our problem clients. Thanks!

Please Share with Friends!

Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector