A professional friend of mine (let’s call him Austin) recently received a surprising email from one of his long time clients. In a matter of two short sentences, the email informed Austin that his services were no longer needed. His client had fired him…via email.
Shocked. Surprised. Bewildered. Upset. The look on Austin’s face told me that he did not expect this to happen. It came right out of left field. Austin’s business was delivered a painful blow to the income statement.
It’s not personal. It’s business.
Many of us are trained to “not take it personally.” We rationalize that there must be something going on in the other’s person’s life that they would make this rash decision, and communicate it in such an “unprofessional way.”
After Austin had calmed down, he called the client to find out what was behind the emailed decision. What was really going on. What Austin found out surprised him even more….
The client told Austin that he did not want to associate with someone who treated his company and his employees so poorly. You see, Austin had become a customer of his client’s company – buying products to support his business operations. This reciprocal relationship (I buy from you, you buy from me) seemed like a great idea at first – a real win/win. But things started to sour as Austin became dissatisfied with the quality and service he was getting from his client’s company. He wasn’t getting his way.
Austin started to give voice to his dissatisfaction in ways that customers usually do: 1) complaining; 2) returning things; 3) paying late or refusing to pay; 4) becoming impatient and sometimes rude.
When we behave poorly as customers
Don’t roll your eyes. We have all behaved poorly as customers at one time or another. We have all mistreated someone who has tried to serve us or work for us. We’ve all had unrealistic expectations and at times we’ve been impossible to please.
We have all acted rudely to employees working for other companies when we are not satisfied with quality or service. We put on the righteous armor of “The Customer is Always Right” and then begin to act like jerks. We throw out everything we have learned about good customer service and let them have it on the telephone. We over-react. We yell at them. We hang up. We hold on to their invoices – after all, he who holds the money has the leverage.
We act like the only things that matter are our experiences and our expectations. How wrong we are.
If you want great customers, you have to be a great customer yourself.
Austin’s experience is a reminder to me that our behavior and our attitude matter in all situations, not just when we are serving our clients. We can’t expect to attract or retain ideal clients if we don’t know how (or aren’t willing) to behave like an ideal client ourselves.
- If you want to be paid on time, then pay your vendors on time.
- If you want to be respected for your work, then respect others for their work (yes, even those whose occupations pay less than yours).
- If you want to have a great boss, then be a great boss.
- If you want to be appreciated by your clients, then show appreciation to the people who work for you.
- If you want to earn a good salary and realize good profits, then pay others a fair price and deserving wage in return for their services. Be wary of the impulse to bargain so hard that they can’t make any profit. You could be on the other side of the table some day soon.
- If you want to be forgiven for your mistakes and shortcomings, be forgiving of others.
- If you want to be appreciated by your customers, then show your appreciation to those who work for you. Tip generously, give bonuses, offer praise, recommend their services. Do the little things that make people feel great, even when you are the customer/client.
“Take a look at yourself and make that… CHANGE!”
– Michael Jackson, lyrics from the song, Man in the Mirror
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
If you want to make a fundamental shift in how your customers treat you, you have take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror. In the words of the late, great Michael Jackson, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.”
If you want to make the world a better place; your business a better business; your life a better life; your relationship a better relationship, your customer a better customer, then make that change!
Be the kind of customer that you would be proud to have in your business!
Sing along with this music video featuring the full lyrics from this upbeat pop song from Michael Jackson, The Man in the Mirror. Video created by jennifer95828 – a big FAN of Michael Jackson. Her video has over 25 million views as of this date.