“We just hate working with them. They make everything so hard!”
I had called my doctor’s office to request that my prescription be called in the mail-order pharmacy I usually work with. I’d mailed in the paper prescription, but it had apparently been lost or delayed, so I needed a refill by the end of the week. I provided all the relevant information for the refill nurse, but when I told her what pharmacy I used, her involuntary exclamation told me all I needed to know about the company’s attitude toward clients.
What about you and your company?
What do your clients say when your name comes up at a networking event? What do you want them to say? Like the pharmacy that sparked the nurse’s expression of loathing, do you make things hard for your clients, or do you smooth their path and take away stress?
Every other pharmacy I’ve used accepts prescription call-ins from the doctor; this one does not. Every other pharmacy I’ve used permits faxed prescriptions; this one does not. This pharmacy requires that new prescriptions, even if they are just an unchanged one-year renewal of a prescription that has been taken for years, be snail-mailed in. This is a) inconvenient; b) slow; c) archaic. As my grandmother would say, “Reee-DIC-ulous!”
I’ve heard small business owners declare that “It’s my business, and I’ll do what’s comfortable for me!” That’s a good policy when you’re strategically using it to plan your business, but when dealing with current clients, it can be business suicide. If your policies make your customers hate doing business with you, chances are that you’ll always be a very small business owner. It’s a choice.
If you’re in a business where people are compelled to work with you, you may survive, but if competition emerges, you’ll be in deep trouble. I would never do business with this arrogant company if it weren’t the only mail-order pharmacy associated with my HMO. The minute there is a better alternative, I will take my business elsewhere, but in the meantime, they remain a niggling annoyance.
So…how can you stay off the “Most Hated” list? Here are five tips:
- Know what you want your clients to say about you, then purposefully create the customer service experience that earns that response.
- Market to clients who are right for you. This way, you can create a good customer service experience that you enjoy providing (it is your business, after all!). If snail mail drives you crazy, don’t market to clients who love it. They may need your services, but they’ll hate the way you provide them, and you won’t get positive referrals from them (in fact, you’re likely to end up the subject of snarky blog posts and “worst customer service ever” conversations.
- Make sure that your service delivery methods make your client’s life easier, rather than harder. It’s good to offer something more or something different than the competition, but make sure it’s a positive difference. My pharmacy is different, all right, but it’s a negative difference.
- If you cannot accommodate a request, be willing to refer the client to someone who can. Many small business owners make the mistake of treating others in their field as adversaries, rather than colleagues. This is another way to ensure that you remain small. Establishing a network of trusted colleagues makes it possible to give and receive quality referrals, ensuring that each of you is able to grow and thrive in your own niche.
- If a customer has a legitimate need or emergency, go the extra mile to accommodate them. The pharmacy’s insistence on snail mail would have ensured that I’d spend several days without the prescription if the nurse hadn’t found a creative solution to the problem. Guess who will get a positive referral from me?
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Janice Campbell, the Lucky Freelancer(tm) Coach, has been a freelance writer and speaker for over two decades and is Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.NAIWE.com), a unique, success-oriented professional organization. She is noted for providing concrete, step-by-step guidance for writers and editors who want to live the freelance life– profitably. In her mastermind and coaching programs, she teaches motivated freelancers how to apply the Seven Core Practices of the Lucky Freelancer. Janice writes daily, exploring new techniques and topics, and loves living the Lucky Freelancer lifestyle.