Everything seems great - until it's not great.While I was waiting on a train yesterday that never came, I pondered this thought as I grew more and more frustrated with the MTA.  I brooded, “If I did this to my clients they wouldn’t think twice about leaving me”. Of course I don’t have the luxury of being a city funded, mandatory tax line item, ‘make no apologies for anything’ monopoly so that keeps me honest.

I recently switched a number of my services that I’d been with for years due to customer service. I got on the phone with their customer service reps and they were either apathetic, flip, or clueless. In these instances, the customer service is a component of the offering. You cable or phone service is going to go down from at some point; there’s no avoiding this. How you deal with these systemic challenges is as important as what your customers perceive as your product. Let me clarify that last sentence.

Dealing with problems is sometimes more important than developing a good productWhether you sell potato chips or microchips there is much more involved than the product on the shelf. What if a bag of those potato chips turns out to have bugs in them when opened? What if the microchip burns out two months after installation?  You’ve got production issues, yes. But what’s probably an even more pressing issue is how you address this to your current and prospective customers.

I think many if us have put up with mediocre quality in exchange for how we are treated as customers. Knowing that our business is valued and appreciated is just as important as the role the product or service plays. It’s called a relationship. I know I have spent my fair share of time on the phone with my water filter company and, while that is less than optimal, each and every time I got off the phone with them I felt good about the conversation and knew I was still their customer.

You're the only customer in the world for me....Now let’s apply this to your own business. Why would your customers expect anything less?  You will never be able to please everyone – this is for certain. You should strive to though. There are many formulas out there that will determine the right amount of resources to commit to any given customer with regard to true acquisition cost  This post is not about that.

There are fundamental values any business should have in an effort to maximize retention. They are, strangely enough, very familiar and common sense to most:

Obvious, I know, but so many overlook this and garner resentment from soon-to-be ex-customers/clients – and guess what they do once they have moved on. Nobody knows the art of reputation management better than small businesses – except perhaps real estate professionals. Care about what others say about you because people seeking information to make a well-informed decision do.

No such thing as bad press? I think not….