Smart Business: A Customer's Rant
I hate it when you don’t show up on time. I hate it when you’re slow in returning my phone calls. I hate it when you point fingers at the GC or supplier or manufacturer or building owner or inspector or whoever else may or may not be responsible for the screw-up. Doesn’t matter whose fault it is. You’re the one I’m paying, so it’s your responsibility to make things right.
I hate paying you more than I expected, like when you bid one price to get the job and then charge me big bucks for all those extras that came up without explanation.
What’s that you say? The extras weren’t in the original contract? When did you tell me I’d have to pay extra for certain things? Did you ever ask me if I wanted them included in the first place? Was it in writing? Damn, I hate it when you fail to communicate.
Business is businessI don’t care how talented you are, or what you did for me last year, business is business. As long as I’m paying for your services, I’m the boss and you are my servant. I hate it when you act like you are the one doing me a favor instead of the other way around.
You see, I am The Customer. Each transaction makes me king of my tiny domain of commerce. I expect-no, make that demand-to be treated not only with respect, but with indulgence.
It’s not that I’m descended from royalty, although if I were you I’d act like I sit on some throne. The reason I feel so full of myself is because I don’t have to do business with you. I have my choice of dozens, even hundreds, of companies that can do the same thing you do and just as well, more or less.
At least that’s how it looks from my perspective. Could be there’s a big difference in quality among all the contractors out there, but how am I to know that when my job goes out for bid or when I pick you out of the telephone directory? I sure wish there was a way to tell ahead of time who’s better than the next guy, but hardly any of you know how to demonstrate that. Oh sure, you prattle on about doing quality work on time, yadda, yadda, yadda. But where’s the proof? What can you show me to back up your clichés? I hate waiting until the job is done to find out if my hard-earned money was well spent.
I also hate it when you badmouth competitors who I don’t know from Adam. The only thing I like about it is that it gives me a chance to find out the names of other companies in the same business as you. If you’re talking trash about them and you don’t make me happy, I think I’ll give them a buzz. Must be a reason why they stick in your craw.
By the way, have you ever asked what I think about the job you’re doing? Of course not. You’re too busy whining about my demands to find out how I look at things. But I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to offer you a peek from my viewpoint, free of charge.
Numero UnoFirst of all, for the most part I don’t give a hoot who I buy from, as long as I get the best value for my money. I don’t care how big or small you are, how many years you’ve been in business, who you’ve worked for in the past or what your stock trades for on Wall Street. All I care about is Numero Uno-how I get treated, the quality of the work on my job, my comfort and convenience and, of course, how much I have to pay.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. All things being equal, I’d just as soon patronize a local firm. Makes me feel good to spend my money with folks who walk the same streets and contribute to the same tax base. But that sentiment isn’t enough to make me pay more for less. My budget is as stretched as anyone else’s-and I’m not talking only about money. I’m also referring to my time budget and my hassles budget. I want to do business with neighborhood people, but only if they make it worthwhile for me to do business with them. Don’t go asking me to give you a break just because you live next door, because I’ll just turn around and ask for a neighbor’s discount. One makes as much sense as the other, don’t you think? I’d have to be out of my mind to put your interests ahead of Numero Uno’s. The Lord helps those who help themselves.
As for you big guys with crews all around, don’t get too smug about what I’m saying. Most of you don’t do such a good job indulging my whims either. At a superficial level your people who call on me tend to dress better and act nicer, because you have the resources to train them to behave the right way. This is good, but that’s not all there is to it.
You also throw a lot more rules and confusion at me. I hate it when I get switched around from person to person, department to department, every time I have a question. I hate the oily canned sales pitches your people lay on me, and I really hate it when “company policy” gets in the way of common sense. Remember, all things being more or less equal, I’d just as soon spend my money locally. You’ve got to be better than the little neighborhood shop if you want my business.
I love being The Customer. Yeah, I know all the names you call me behind my back-and sometimes, if you’re real stupid, even to my face. Maybe I am arrogant, insufferable, egotistical, condescending-the world’s biggest s.o.b. But I’ve got news for you. My wife may nag me, the kids may not listen to me, the boss may be on my back, but as long as I control some almighty bucks, I am a person with authority. Money is power. It enables me to distribute or withhold my favors as I see fit. It entitles me to give guff rather than take it.
Most of you don’t see things my way. You prefer to do business based on your schedule, your needs, your temperament. That’s why you’re all so rich, huh?
I love having all those contractors to choose from. I love rewarding the ones that jump through hoops for me, and dismissing those who don’t. Yessirree, I love being The Customer.
Despite all my faults, it’s time you learned to love me, too.