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.
You see, 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 enough about marketing to demonstrate that. Oh sure, you prattle on about doing quality work, giving great service, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. 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.
Everyone’s portraying the consolidators and utilities and big boxes as Godzillas stomping on the poor little independents. Anyone ever bother to ask me, The Customer, what I think about your industry’s landscape?
Of course not. You’re all 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 Uno: 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 you are, how many locations you have 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 done to my premises, 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 whose kids go to school with mine, who walk the same streets, who contribute to the same tax base.
But all 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 — like you’re always begging the manufacturers and suppliers to “protect” you against the likes of me. Nobody in his right mind is going to put your interests ahead of Numero Uno’s. The Lord helps those who help themselves.
As for you big guys, 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 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 neighborhood shop if you want my business.
Intoxicated With Power: I love being The Customer. 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 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. It’s time you learned to love me, too.