Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Don't It Make You Feel Good....

This thing happened to me the recently and it gave me a warm sense of satisfaction, 'twas a nice little affirmation, which I'm sure you'll agree we all need sometimes.

Allow me to give you some background info first.

About 15 years ago I, and two other chaps, started our Company. The Company exists now and two of us still work for it and own it, along with another fellow.

I won't go into detail about exactly what we do, mainly because it's not relevant but also because you'll get bored, well more bored.

But, we are a service related Company. We offer a service to other Companies, one that can be bought from many of our competitors, some of whom are great and reputable and some of whom are as dodgy as one of those Nike T shirts from House Of Fashion. Probably not as long lasting though.

When we started the Company we decided that we'd market ourselves as a "quality" provider of our services, as a Company that gave levels of customer service and personalised service that many of our much bigger competitors just couldn't, and still can't do. We don't sell on price yet we know we have to offer things at competitive prices. But that doesn't mean we're ever going to be the cheapest provider in our market place.

We're quite happy with that approach. It has meant that we've often lost, or failed to gain, business because of price. That's ok. We're honest with customers, we tell them if we can't do a job rather than bullshit them and then fail to deliver what has been promised. It has meant that we've built up a reasonably solid and loyal customer base over the 15 years. We still lose customers and we still get new customers, like all businesses we know we have to run fast sometimes just to keep still. Complacency is a 4 letter word.

Sometimes we lose a customer because another Company has offered the seemingly same services for a cheaper price. It can hurt and we often get said customer back after the competitor has cocked up, or just not matched expectations.

That's our chosen path, it may not be right for any Company, I don't actually think there's any definitive strategy, only ones that work. Ours works for us. That's the background. Here's the story.

I answered the phone and it was a customer, as it very often is. He said that he'd sent out a mailing through us a few weeks ago and only about half of it had arrived. It was a customer whose name I knew as we have regular clients, many of whom trade on an as and when basis. I was puzzled by the customer's complaint as I know that we do everything properly and the likelihood of mail not arriving is near on impossible.

I listened and explained how we do things and why the scenario seemed unlikely. The customer, who was quite friendly and amicable, said

"Hold on I've got your invoice downstairs, shall I just go and get it?"

Obviously I said stuff in the affirmative, like "yes". Off he trotted. Back he came and said.

"Ermm you're not _______ (insert name of dodgy competitor here) are you?"

I tried to hide my pure glee, not to be confused with that essential ingredient in buriyani, pure ghee, as I told him we were not ________ (insert that same name here).

"Ah, sorry about that" he said in laughing but also embarassed tones.

"That's quite ok, but perhaps you'd be better off using us next time" I said, in laughing but also getting my point across that price is not the same as value tones.

"Yes, I definitely will" said the customer.

We finished the call.

I felt good.

But sometimes I'm easily pleased.

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