Canadian Rental Service

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At Your Service: Mix it up – You need small and big clients for success


November 19, 2020
By Russ Dantu

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My mom and dad owned a small business for over 20 years. They sold industrial cleaners, janitorial supplies, heavy duty detergents, ice melt, brooms, vacuums and special chemical compounds, among other things.

They did quite well over the years and I remember when I was just entering into the sales arena, my father said, “Son, you need a good base of small, medium and large customers. Don’t just chase the large ones or you’ll find yourself in trouble when times get tough.”

I took this to heart and absolutely believe this more than ever now that we have faced a huge meltdown during COVID-19. I’ve seen companies who had one or two huge customers over the years lose them and then close their doors. They had all their eggs in those one or two baskets and it killed their businesses.

Like many of you, COVID-19 hit me hard in my branded promotional products and corporate apparel business (synergyapparel.ca). Lots of customers stopped spending money on discretionary items like clothing and promotional products but I’ve somehow survived and I attribute that to the fact that when some of my larger customers stopped spending and some of my mid-size also cut back, I still had lots of smaller companies that were thriving and continued to spend…and even spend more than usual.

Without them, I too may have been a COVID-19 casualty!

So why do I bring this up? I hear this all the time: “Why would we want to work with small customers? They are a pain in the butt and more work than they are worth. Let’s just focus on the larger accounts!”

“Why wouldn’t we just take care of the big companies where the real money is? I cringe when smaller customers walk in because they are going to take up my precious time and place a small order. It’s really not worth my time!”

It’s more important now to not only have a good mix of small, medium and large customers but to service them all fairly. Now, fairly doesn’t mean equally, does it? If you have large customers spending tens of thousands (or more) with you, and another customer who spends a thousand a year with you, you’ll obviously do more for the bigger customer. But please remember to treat all of them fairly. Give them the respect they deserve. Handle them quickly and efficiently. Treat them like gold. Here’s why.

You never know what they will grow into. Lots of start-up and small businesses expand into larger companies or have other businesses they run.

You never know who they know. I don’t know how many times I have been referred to other customers because they loved the way I treated them.

You’ll never know what kind of review they’ll give you online. Right or wrong, people post how they feel. If you make them feel poorly, you’ll likely hear about it on a Google review or they may even visit their local BBB office.

Taking good care of customers is simple. Do it right from day one, regardless of their size. Most people just want to pay a fair price and be taken care of, regardless of the size of their business. Do that and you’ll likely have a customer for life. During these trying times, every customer becomes that much more important.


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. Visit russdantu.com.