WHY: YOUR BEST CLIENTS DESERVE YOUR BEST SERVICE
People generally have an aversion to change. Customers can put up with a lot before they change suppliers. A lot of large companies have become expert at abusing their customers. Think how much pain is involved in switching banks, email accounts or cell phone providers.
Sometimes though, they can be fickle and it takes very little to lose an excellent client. The more alternatives that are available to them, the easier it is for them to switch. Customers can be like a stream that follows the path of least resistance.
There is a fantastic Italian deli here that has been successful for years. Each sandwich is made with love. When I lived in another province, I used to dream about getting a cooler full of sandwiches flown in. Whenever you go there at lunch time, you will stand in line for 15 minutes before getting served. They could move to a larger location or open additional stores to improve the service. But they are content to stay the same. Its an experience. The problem is that I never carry cash. And they don't accept anything but. So, I've noticed myself not going there anymore. The ordeal of standing in line for most of my lunch break was worth it. But having to make a whole other errand (going to the bank) first, increases the resistance too much for me. That, combined with a ton of other options for lunch led to a change in habits. It wasn't a conscious decision. It only occurred to me when I asked myself why I don't go there anymore.
Last Fall, I heard from a really good client that I had done work for 5 years previous. They finally decided to move forward on a bid I submitted in 2009. I agreed to honour that price for them. We had been fairly close as far as business/client relationships go. They had purchased a vehicle from us, my family rented a place from them for a few months, and we had been there for their family during a crisis. It was a warm and sincere relationship. But I mistakenly thought that since they had waited 5 years to respond to a quote, they weren't in a big hurry to get the work done. Since my schedule for Fall was full, I suggested waiting until Spring to complete their exterior project. The result? They found another painter that was available to do the work right away. They must have thought that I didn't need their project since I was so busy. I mis-judged the situation and lost a good job and a good client. They came to me first because they were ready to go. But I did't solve their problem. I was really disappointed, but after thinking about it, it was my own fault for dropping my service.
Never lean too hard on the perceived equity you may have built up with a good loyal client. Your best clients deserve your best service, no matter how familiar they become. If you mess up occasionally then you hope that there is enough goodwill in the bank to bridge the service gap. But expecting it or taking it for granted can be costly.
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