Why I don’t want everyone to be my customer?
This year is looking exceedingly promising, but not from the sales and profits perspective, but more so, from the point of the learning that it has given me in such a short space of time.
Growing any business takes a lot of effort, even more so in my industry, where every retailer is happily discounting their product away so they can just move dead stock and have foot traffic coming through the door. This works well for a lot of customers, who are focused on getting the best deal available.
Play the violin for the shopkeeper who is selling $5 worth shirts for $30 at a discount and claiming to go bankrupt; as well for the customer who thinks he’s getting a bargain as he’s just bought a $50 shirt for $30.
Having worked for many years in retail, to me, it seems like an endless loop that just drags customer service, quality and skill down the drain. In the last 15 years, the level of customer service has dropped, despite the number of gurus with their training costs and time expectations from staff almost tripled.
When I started in retail, we didn’t get trained much, but we were taught the why? of customer service. Why it’s important to look after your customer? Why it’s important to listen and ask the right questions? Why it’s important to go the extra mile for the customer? It did impact profitability, and sales, but most importantly, it was all about the relationship.
And relationships can’t be built one-sided. It is not fair on the retailer, or the business to keep offering the best service, and be asked to continually discount their services or products. In this case, the customer is not being loyal nor rewarding the quality of care, by devaluing the effort of the shop keeper or the store assistant or the product.
At the same time, it’s not fair on the customer, when the retailers offers below par products or services at a premium price, without offering to service or resolve any issues that might arise.
A good relationship is when the shop owner or business owner offers the best service suited to the client’s needs, based on an open conversation, and then offers the best product at best value to the customer. The customer appreciates this, and rewards it, by continuing to do business with this person / store, and refers more business on to them as well.
Now, here’s the important question, would I as a manufacturer or seller want every other person using my product or taking my service? It took me almost a decade of dealing with no-good people to answer this, NO !!
No I don’t want anybody or somebody to buy my clothes and wear them. No I don’t see my business growing or my brand thriving if it’s not appreciated by those that purchase my products and avail of my services. No I don’t envision every person seeing the value in what I provide and appreciate it.
Every business needs to differentiate their prospects into 5 categories, and focus on the ones that they know will lead to a long-term relationship. Or at least, meet the purpose for what that client approached you for a service or product.
1. Bread and butter
These are the mass clients that require your products and services on a regular basis. They are not looking for the bells and whistles but appreciate what they get, and are generally repeat clients. They make up at least 70% of your turnover and are the most valuable clients. For my business, these can be classified as B2C, made up of individuals and small groups.
These are far and few, and are not the clients you deal with on a regular basis, but usually come to you with very specific needs. They can be a bit difficult to deal with initially, as they require you to go out of your way, but also worth it as they offer you a bigger volume of business. Ideally these fall into the B2B, and are for a bulk order which can take a few months to service. These can be from 5 to 10% for any business.
This is the one customer that you literally dream of, not just for the scale of the business that they offer, but the freedom to truly service them to the fullest potential. In most businesses, such clients come through referral and word of mouth, and can offer business on a recurring basis year on year. These clients are very rare, and need to be educated, nurtured and serviced really well, as they know what they want, and rely on you as a supplier to be the expert who can handle everything for them with ease. These clients value relationship and trust most, and will be a great learning experience for any SME.
4. Avoid & Ignore
These are those who can be good clients, but prefer to shop around, and are more interested in conversations around price, not quality or service. They are best avoided and ignored, as they will make you work above and beyond for the little penny you make off them. Their appreciation for your work diminishes with time, and they are least likely to refer any business to you, but will cost you more sales, if you entertain them, by making promises but not following up on them, and by sucking out your time and energy in the process.
These are the worst kind and should be dropped as soon as you see them. I will, as a rule, not even bother with them, no matter how big the business. They tend to be manipulative, and will approach you by bad mouthing a competitor. Keep your ears open for this, as that’s the first red flag. Second red flag is that they want everything urgently on very short notice, with all the bells and whistles to suit their ego. Third red flag is at the time of pricing, they will ask you for discount, and will be adamant that you cut them a good deal.
In the long run, this same customer will find flaws in your product or services, where none exists, and then pursue excessive actions, either through litigation or intimidation or using their influence on other clients, to present you in bad light. Such clients will always end up with losses for your business, as they will enjoy burning you and your business down.
As a small SME, I value every business that comes my way, and appreciate the clientele that I service in a tough price-driven environment, by offering best-value service and using my years of expertise to offer quality advice.
Still, from learning over the year, I use a specific list of qualifying questions to weed out the potential clients from the potential non-client. And even more so, have strengthened my legal advice around terms and conditions so I can protect myself, my employees and provide good service to the right customer.
I’d love to hear from you on your experience, and how you tackle the good and not-so-good interactions. If you found this interesting, then like, share and comment on this, and if not, then tell me why too.
For the best-value custom tailored menswear in Sydney, you can book your appointment on www.azrim.com.au. We come to your home or office for an obligation-free quote with a styling and tailoring service.