by Tom Borg
A few months back, a business owner approached me after one of my presentations and complained that he had been in the office supply business for over 20 years, during which time he had never seen it so bad as now. Customers were constantly trying to “nickel and dime him to death” on his prices. A local wholesale warehouse was selling many of the same items he carried at prices he couldn’t touch. Customers were inconsiderate, rude, and impatient. He told me that in order to cope with this type of environment, he had started bluntly telling his customers that if they didn’t like his prices or his service, they could take their business elsewhere. Needless to say, his business was doing poorly.
A few weeks later, I spoke to another office supply owner who was a competitor of the one above. I asked him how his business was doing. He smiled and told me his business had never been better. As he talked, he described how his customers were pleasant and good-natured and seemed to like coming into his store. He told me that he treated many of them like they were part of his family. He felt his business was good because of his attitude towards life.
In these two examples, it’s easy to see how the business owner’s perspective shaped the amount of success he experienced with his business. When it comes to an attitude towards its customers, some businesses subscribe to Theory X. This theory states
“Remember that happiness is a way of travel – not a destination.”
– Roy M. Goodman
that customers are sneaky, troublesome, and motivated by narrow interests. Other businesses subscribe to Theory Y. This theory states that customers are fair and trustworthy people.
Paul Hawken, author of Growing a Business, says that ‘being in business is not just about making money, but it is a way to become who you are.” It makes good sense that if we are going to have a healthy business, we’ve got to start with a correct attitude towards ourselves as well as towards our customers.
Bob Tomsic, owner of a business machine repair company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, believes that one of the main reasons for his success is his intention of keeping all of his customers happy. He maintains that he has three sets of customers: 1) his family, 2) his employees, and 3) the people that need his company’s services. By keeping all three groups satisfied, he has built a prosperous and growing company. This is not to say that there are not challenges in keeping these three sets of customers satisfied — there are. It’s just that he understands that it is his philosophy towards these customers that makes the difference.
The interesting idea to note is that, despite the way we look at our business, it is up to us to “choose” the attitude we want to express. It’s safe to say that the response we receive from our customers and employees or co-workers will be a reflection of the way we treat them.
As you look around your business community, you will see positive and negative examples of the viewpoint business owners display towards their customers. Note the ones who take a positive position, and make it a point to invest some time discussing successful business strategies with them. It will be worth it.
Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations to improve customer acquisition and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, behavioral assessments, training and mentoring. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, please contact him at: (734) 404-5909 or email him at: [email protected] or visit his website at: www.tomborgconsulting.com