At Your Service: Sometimes you have to fire your customers
By Russ Dantu
Once, I received a referral from a trusted business alliance for someone who needed some branded hoodies made. We’ll call the prospect Rob...because that was his name. We set up a time to meet at my showroom two days later. This was a legitimate, good referral from someone who had done business with Rob for an extended period of time, apparently without issue.
By Russ Dantu
On the day of our meeting, I had samples out and ready to show Rob based on our conversation about what he was looking for. The coffee was made and piping hot. I sat patiently waiting for Rob to show up at 10 a.m. When it got to be 10:20, I called him.
Me: “Hey Rob, its Russ Dantu.”
Rob: “Hey Russ. What can I do for you?”
Me: “You were supposed to be meeting with me at my showroom at 10 a.m. today to discuss some apparel.”
Rob: “Oh, um, yeah. Hey, can I call you back in two minutes? I just need to do something quickly but I promise I’ll call you back.”
Me: “No problem. Thanks.”
Three-and-a-half weeks later, Rob called me back and left a message. You may ask why I didn’t call him again later that same day. It’s because I’ve gotten to be a pretty good judge of character over the years and didn’t like the fact that he hadn’t even apologized for missing the meeting.
Rob: “Hey Russ. I know the two of us have been trying to get together and nothing has worked so far for us but I really want to get some hoodies made and I’m free in the next couple of days. Please call me back to set up a time so we can get these done.”
I was hesitant to call, but hate passing up on any business, so I did. We set up a time to meet two days after we spoke (he still didn’t apologize but I let it go). I had samples out and ready to show Rob, again. The coffee was made and piping hot, again. I sat patiently waiting for Rob to show up at 11 a.m. this time. At 11:10, I called and it rang and rang and rang and then went to voicemail only to say his voicemail box was full. Really? What kind of business has a full voicemail box? I tried again at 11:15 thinking he was on the phone but received the same message.
I left the showroom at 11:20 and called again while I was driving to my luncheon meeting. He actually answered.
Rob: “Hey Russ! It’s been a long time. How can I help you?”
Me: “Really Rob?” (Yep, you guessed it – I wasn’t very happy at this point.) “It was two days ago that we talked and we rebooked for 11 a.m. this morning to meet and discuss apparel, remember?”
Rob: “Oh yeah. I had two employees call in sick this morning and I’m really busy. How long are you there for?”
Me: “I’ve left already for my next appointment Rob.”
Rob: “Well, let’s rebook then.”
Me: “Umm, sorry, Rob, but that’s not going to happen. I wish you all the best finding someone to help you with hoodies but it won’t be me. You’ve stood me up twice now and my time is as important as yours. Have a great day.”
The old adage, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” comes to mind. We are definitely in a down economy in Alberta and every piece of business is important, but at what cost? Part of your customer service strategy should be to not deal with people like this. Frequently, they actually cost you more than you make. Assign a fair value to your time and assess whether someone who is wasting it is really worth the investment.
It’s hard letting customers and prospects go but it can be a necessity in order to survive and thrive in your business. The customer is not always right. It is up to us to weigh the odds to see if we really want to keep them or to move on and use our time more productively. Respect is a two-way street and business has to be a win-win for both parties.
Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. For more information, visit russdantu.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.