Make it Easy for Your Customers

For the last 11 years I have held a clothes swap at my house. It’s simple, I invite about 20-25 girlfriends and they bring everything they don’t want in their house (have yet to have a girlfriend bring her husband or boyfriend – lol) and bring it to mine. There are bags and bags and bags of items people don’t want and they spread them out throughout two rooms and then they all go “shopping”. The women take others items and see their “get rid of” items be picked up by someone. What isn’t picked up by one of the attendees is donated to one of a few local nonprofits (this year Sacred Heart Community Service and St. Justins Outgrown Shop). It’s a super fun day filled with great women, good food and helping others. This year we donated more than 800 items to two different charities. Believe it or not, this year was a small donation year!

The clothes swap has been successful since the beginning and most of the same women are still coming with the addition of a few new women.  This is how my clothes swap relates to your customers – 1) make it easy and 2) make it predictable.

1) Make it easy: These women have busy lives. They have careers, husbands/boyfriends, kids, social lives and so much more going on. They have very little extra time but I make it easy for them…bring in what you don’t want and I’ll do the rest. I’ll sort through all the items so that the appropriate nonprofits get what is right for them. I’ll put items on hangers. I’ll save you a trip to a bunch of locations so that you can hang with a bunch of awesome women while you socialize, shop and eat.

Your customers are super busy too. They have families, social lives and let’s not forget, lots of vendors that they’re working with. Don’t waste their time. When you say you’ll only need 30 minutes, take no more than that. When you give them a document to review, makes sure that it’s in a reviewable format. I think you get the gist. The easier you make it for them, the more that they’ll be willing and want to work with you.

2) Make it predictable: Most of the women who have been coming to my annual clothes swap have been coming for the entire 11 years. They know exactly what to expect ahead of time, during the swap and even the follow up after.

Again, if you say it’ll take 30 minutes, don’t take a minute more. Also let your customer know exactly what you expect out of them. If you’re writing a press release on them, let them know how long they will have to approve it, when you hope to release the press release, what the post press release process will be (media outreach, post to your website, social media…) and any other items. This way they’ll have the opportunity to tell you at the beginning if they can participate and if the time line will work. However, if they have to change the timeline at any point in the process that’s okay. Yes, it’s okay. I know you have deadlines to meet but the customer owes you nothing. You can give them a nudge to speed up the process but never ever get mad, yell or threaten them because they aren’t meeting your timeline. The customer owes you nothing! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Got it?

It’s that simple…make it easy and make it predictable!

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Customers Owe You Nothing!

I’ve been working for technology companies for just about twenty years.  My main point of contact is either IT, Marketing or Sales. Getting their time is rare and when I get it, I have to make sure that I use the time wisely. Sometimes I don’t get what I need from them, but I’m always thankful for their time because I know that they have their regular job to do and they also have many many many other vendors that they work with.  My time is precious, but I also know that their time is precious too.

Although there have been many times that I have asked the world of a customer, I know that they have no obligation to do anything for me – even if they are 100% happy with my company’s products or services.  I have never made a customer sign a document saying that they’ll commit to doing x, y or z because I never want to legally contract them to doing something for me.  Rather, I want them to want to do something for me.  Your customers aren’t your children, they are more like the boy/girl that you’re dating. You are also  not married to them and they are not married to you.  Could you imagine during your wedding having to sign a contract that says that you’ll clean the toilets once a week, take your spouse on an expensive vacation four times a year or write you love letters once a month. Wouldn’t you want them to want to do that, rather than making them do it.  When we’re forced to do something, it becomes an obligation and very few people like being obliged.  The only obligation that your customer should have to you/your company is to pay the invoice. That’s it!  Everything else is just icing on the cake.

And never, ever threaten them because they couldn’t do something or had to back out of something.  Don’t dismiss them just because they weren’t able to follow through on a commitment. They are people too and have other things to do than make you/your company look good.

I’ve written it  many times before it’s worth repeating. Customers owe you nothing!!  Nothing at all!!!!  I don’t care if you have sent them shwag for months, you gave them a discount or you remember their birthday.  When they do something for you, the vendor, it’s a favor.  Don’t expect them to make you or your company a top priority.  If they do, you’re lucky and it’s great.