- THE MAGAZINE
I hate it when you don't show up on time. I hate it when you're slow in returning my phone calls. I hate it when you point fingers at the equipment, the distributor, the supplier, rush-hour traffic, the weather, someone calling in sick or any other real or imagined cause of delays and screw-ups. Excuses don't cut it when hundreds of dollars of my money is on the line.
I hate it when I have to pay you more than I expected. I don't give a snot about the semantic distinction between an estimate and a quote. I want to know how much the job is going to cost before it starts. Yes, I understand that may change with changes in the work, but I expect to know exactly how much those changes will cost before I approve them.
I don't care how talented you are, or what you did for me last year, business is business. As long as I'm paying for your services, I'm the boss and you are my servant. I hate it when you act like you are the one doing me a favor instead of the other way around.
I am The Almighty Customer. Each transaction makes me king of my tiny domain of commerce. I have the right to expect perfection in the work you do and how you deliver your services. (Okay, deep down I realize nobody's perfect, but your work better be as close to perfection as humanly possible.) I expect - no, make that demand - to be treated not only with respect, but with indulgence.
You see, I don't have to do business with you. I have my choice of dozens, even hundreds of companies that can do the same thing you do and just as well, more or less. Ever count the listings under your heading in a Yellow Pages directory? Or the business cards tacked to the hardware store and supermarket bulletin boards? They're all pretty much the same.
At least that's how it looks from my perspective. Could be there's a big difference in quality among all the contractors out there, but how am I to know that when I ask my neighbor who she used, or when I pick you out of the telephone book?
I sure wish there was a way to tell ahead of time who's better than the next guy, but hardly any of you know enough about marketing to demonstrate that. Oh sure, you prattle on about being honest and doing quality work, but where's the proof? What can you show me to back up your clichés? I hate waiting until the job is done to find out if my hard-earned money was well spent.
And don't go whining to me about all the unfair competitors, the silly government regulations, and all your other business problems. Not unless you can to listen to me vent about all the things that go wrong where I work. Anyone ever bother to ask me, The Almighty Customer, what I think about your industry's landscape?
Of course not. You're too busy complaining about my demands to find out how I look at things. But I'm going to do you a favor. I'm going to offer you a peek from my pedestal, free of charge.
Meet Numero Uno
For the most part, I don't give a hoot who I hire to do my work, as long as I get the best value for my money. I don't care how big you are, how many locations you have or how many testimonials you can show me. All I care about is Numero Uno - how I get treated, the quality of the work done on my premises, my comfort and convenience and, of course, how much I have to pay.
I'll let you in on a little secret. All things being equal, I'd just as soon patronize a local firm. Makes me feel good to spend my money with folks whose kids go to school with mine, who walk the same streets, who contribute to the same tax base.
But all that sentiment isn't enough to make me pay more for less. My budget is as stretched as anyone else's - and I'm not talking only about money. I'm also referring to my time budget and my hassles budget. I want to do business with neighborhood people, but only if they make it worthwhile for me to do business with them. Don't go asking me to give you a break just because you live next door. Don't expect sympathy to keep you in business. Nobody in his right mind is going to put your interests ahead of Numero Uno's. The Lord helps those who help themselves.
As for you big guys, don't get too smug about what I'm saying. Most of you don't do such a good job indulging my whims either. At a superficial level your people may conduct themselves a bit better on a jobsite, because you have the resources to train them to behave the right way. This is good, but that's not all there is to it. Remember, all things being more or less equal, I'd just as soon spend my money locally. You've got to be better than the neighborhood shop if you want my business.
Intoxicated With Power
I love being The Almighty Customer. My wife may nag me, the kids may not listen to me, the boss may be on my back, but as long as I control some almighty bucks, I am a person with authority. Money is power. It enables me to distribute or withhold my favors as I see fit. It entitles me to give guff rather than take it.
Most of you don't see things my way. You believe you have the right to schedule jobs in a way that's most convenient to you rather than me. You think my calls can wait until you're in the mood to return them. You think you have the right to tell me where to get off if I rub you the wrong way.
We live in a world governed by supply and demand. If yours was the only company around capable of doing the work I need done, you could pretty much name your price and give me all the lip you want. I'd have no choice except to sit still and take it.
But take another look at those Yellow Pages and business cards. The world is chock full of cleaners, and it amazes me how many of them are willing to do a job cheaper than the previous guy who quoted me. All I need to do is ask. If you don't treat me with respect and convince me to spend a little more money with you because you're worth it, I'll just shop around. When price is the only issue, you'd have to be a fool not to get the lowest prices possible.
I love having all those contractors to choose from. I love rewarding the ones that jump through hoops for me, and dismissing those who don't. Yes sir, I love being The Almighty Customer. Difficult as I may be at times, you better learn to love me, too.