Business 1.0 January/February 2020August 9th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
Listen To The Silence
By Lyle R. Hill
As much as it hurts to admit, I am, like most of you, a true creature of habit. So day after day and week after week my morning routine hardly ever varied.
I would pull up to a local drive-through restaurant expecting to hear a pleasant “good morning.” Instead, a semi-agitated and often surly voice would boom a cursory, “May I take your order?”
“Yes, a medium coffee with one cream,” I dutifully would answer each morning, knowing full well what often followed would be humorous if not that it was also often so frustrating.
You see, what I ordered had little relationship to what I would receive. Often, my simple order took forever to fill because of complications with the car ahead of me. For any number of reasons, my simple order was incorrect at least 50% of the time! And the service was neither friendly nor efficient. Also, the length of my wait seemed to be inversely proportionate to the size of my order.
Rut dwellers don’t easily make changes, so I kept going back. Day after day and week after week, after all, the place was on my way, it had the cheapest coffee in town, and I didn’t have to get out of the car. But even rut dwellers eventually recognize false economies.
Ultimately, I found a friendlier, more efficient supplier for my morning coffee. The new place was a little more expensive, and I had to get out of my car to go inside to get my order, but I made the switch. Herein is perhaps a lesson for us all.
Companies become rut dwellers, too. They feel they can live on their reputation, low prices, or convenience factors. Few, if any, of the customers they lose will never call, write, or stop by in person to say why they’re transferring their business to a competitor.
Most of these now ex-customers won’t complain because they really don’t want to make a scene. They, like most of us, already have enough conflicts in their lives. They’re the nice, compliant, soft-spoken customer who’ll put up with lousy service and won’t complain because they feel it wouldn’t do them any good. They also know they won’t receive poor service from you again because they know they’re not coming back again—no matter how convenient or inexpensive you are!
What’s perhaps the most surprising is that many businesses that regularly lose customers because of poor service are the first to tell you they pride themselves on their reputations for customer satisfaction. After all, they hardly ever receive a complaint.
So, if this is a real life situation, how do you avoid it? How can you hear what isn’t being said? Very simple . . . ask. Become proactive instead of reactive. Customer response cards or even better, customer post-service calls are a good place to start. Having friends pose as customers and reporting back to you on how well they were treated isn’t a bad idea either. You might also want to ask if a customer is a “repeat customer,” as this can be a sign of how your business is performing. For new customers, ask who did their last job? What brought them to you in the first place? Will they come back? Would they recommend you to a friend or relative? You can’t get an answer to a question that is never asked. The ways in which we do business have changed dramatically over the years, but people have not. They still want to be treated in a friendly, honest and fair manner.
So whatever it takes, talk to your customers, find out what they really think of you, and always remember, if you don’t ask, you’ll probably never hear or know, and even worse, you may never see them again.
Lyle R. Hill is the former owner of a window film company in the Midwest. He also serves as president of Glass.com®, an information portal and job generation company for the auto glass industry, and provides film-related advice. Hill has more than 40 years of experience in glass-related industries and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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