Look For The Silver Lining

I’m really looking forward to this winter. Truly. I want drizzle and torrential downpours because this winter my house has a brand new, leak-proof roof. This is in sharp contrast to last winter, when I experienced major leaks with my old roof and massive frustration in my attempts to get them fixed. There was a silver lining in the rain clouds, however. The whole sodden experience highlighted for me how easily businesses lose actual or potential customers and generate, free of charge, loads of negative publicity, without any effort at all. So, if you’re wanting to know some ways to lose your customers and your reputation over time, do consider the following:

Only Promise

It’s so simple. Promise the customer you will arrive next Wednesday to give a quote. Or, promise you will send the customer the quote or proposal, after the on-site visit. Promise clients you’ll do something with particular information. Keep promising and never, never deliver. It’s a great way to cut down on the paperwork and keep the workload manageable.

Do a little, not a lot

This involves sending someone to do some preparation – measure for a quote, or give an assessment of what may be required for a particular piece of work, then ‘forget’ to get back to the client with the information requested. Let them drop from your memory. This is a great way to keep customers on tender-hooks waiting for the call or service that never arrives.

Another variation is to do only some of what may be required, promise to come back to do the next bit then do nothing. No part two. This really tantalises the client – they get some, but not all of what they want, and who knows when the rest will arrive? You see, guessing games can be entertaining, if you’re the one calling the shots.

Completely Ignore

Have answer machine messages that say ‘your call is important, we do want to hear from you, we will return your call’, then ignore all calls and requests for a response. If and when the client finally reaches you by telephone, sound surprised and say you never got any of the messages. This technique certainly builds clients’ anticipation and keeps the optimists amongst them occupied for days, weeks and months, at a time.

Get Nasty

Well, why not get angry and hostile at the client, when they ask for a response, a returned call, a delivery date, some information. Turning feral allows you to shoot your potential source of income and yourself, in the foot, in one easy action. I mean, who needs the client anyway?

Blame Others

If you have done something that is incomplete or unsatisfactory in some way, ensure you take no responsibility or accountability for any of your actions. Push the blame onto the nameless, faceless ‘others’ who always muck things up in your business. Complaining about being too busy to do anything, yet in the same breath accepting another piece of work when you know you can’t manage it or fit it in, is another useful technique. Or, you could present all the possible barriers to doing something and never present solutions or alternatives. The client will be sure to understand and if they don’t, they wouldn’t be the sort of client you want, now would they?

Forget Follow up

Another simple trick is to eliminate all follow up – on everything. Don’t spend time wondering if people received the quotes, whether clients want to proceed with a proposal or if tradespeople or other personnel arrived on the stated day. And as for whether the work has been done to the client’s satisfaction – would you really want to know this? Would you really care?

Waste Your Advertising Budget

Here, you can spend money on the yellow pages and other advertising channels and ensure you use words transmitting confidence and ‘trust me’ messages. You know, a member of the Mumblemumble Association, 10 years experience, qualified professionals, guaranteed work, prompt service, quality products and services. Then do and be the complete opposite. After all, the adverts are just a lure and that’s what Caveat Emptor means anyway, right?

If instead, you do want to make yourself attractive to your existing and potential clients, what is it you need to know about them?

They want to be treated with courtesy and respect. They want to be listened to and feel that someone understands their needs and wants and will work to satisfy them. They want to be offered ideas, options and possible solutions. They want what they ask for, when they need it, in the form they need it in. They want a good experience. They want quality service, quality work. They want to deal with people who are honest, ethical and have personal integrity. They want mutually beneficial relationships. And the silver lining, the payoff? The best advertising costs nothing yet is worth a fortune. It comes from satisfied clients who not only freely recommend you to others, but always come back to you for that quality service and experience you gave in the past. ©


First published in NZ Business, October 2003�

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