I've heard it said that it will be 5% of your clientele that takes up 95% of your time and energy, and after 15 years running a computer shop, I can tell youthat's true.
We have a wide customer base, a lot of customers have been coming here for years and have long since quit nickling and diming and shopping around. They know that my prices aren't usually the lowest but they are reasonable, and the quality of our work and our customer service makes up for it. These people come, we do the work, they pay, they go. These people are not in the 5%.
Yesterday, I got a call.
"Hi, Cindy? It's Eddie, remember me?"
"Eddie Benedict." (Not his real name, obviously)
"I know the name....?" I have already, by this time, looked for him in my Quickbooks customer list, which dates to 2004. I do know his name, but he is not there. So he hasn't been in for more than 5 years.
"Yeah, well, I used to buy, like, everything there."
"Right. So, can I help you?"
"I need a 160 Gb IDE laptop drive.
"Those are in stock at $89.00."
"$89? Really? Another place has them for $77.00."
"Mmmhmm?" Meaning: So? Go there, if it matters to you.
"Oh, well. Is there any charge to install it?"
"Yes, the technician will probably just ask for a $15.00 service fee."
(Laughs) "$15.00 for a few minutes' work. That's pretty good pay!"
I'm silent, because I really don't need this. I have other things to do, I just want him to go away now. We do say thank you, goodbye, but then HE SHOWS UP IN MY STORE.
Blonde co-worker meets him at the counter. "Hello, may I help you?"
"Cindy knows what I want."
"Sorry, Cindy is busy with paperwork right now. What do you need?"
I am busy with paperwork, a tax remittance that is nearly a week late. It is not done because I keep getting interrupted. He grudgingly tells her what he wants, and asks if the technician will install it, and is there a fee for that?
Now, I'm listening.
Co-worker says yes, there's a $15 service charge. Eddie asks to talk to me. We begin with polite greetings, and then he says, "Cindy, I don't understand why there's this charge. I used to have things like this done here all the time. You didn't charge me then. It's a very small job to do."
"And it's a very small fee to ask."
He looks blank, so I decide to take a minute and help him understand where I'm coming from.
"Eddie, the industry has changed a lot. You might have noticed there aren't so many stores any more? Costs are up, and the profit margins are down, so we need to charge these fees now if we're going to continue to be here."
"Well," he says, "that has nothing to do with me."
He's upset now, because he really expected me to give in. "Well, you've lost me. You lost me when you started to insult me."
I looked at co-worker, and she shrugged. "I don't remember saying anything insulting."
"Well, I could have gone somewhere else, but I came here out of loyalty to you."
"Eddie, we haven't seen you in quite a few years."
Huff, bluster. "Well no, but I've been recommending you."
"Well, thanks." Does he recommend me because I do good work, or because I do FREE work? Let's watch and see....
"Well, that's done then. I don't know what to say to you, Cindy."
"I don't know what to say to you either, Eddie."
And that, unfortunately, is the attitude of a lot of people in business these days. There is little or no emphasis on loyalty or good working relationships with customers - UNLESS the customer wants to try and use it as a lever to get better prices or free service. THEN, we find ourselves talking about loyalty.
DH and I discussed it at supper. It's sad to say, when we built our business on service and antiquated notions like the Good Faith principle. The fact is, return customer or no, these days we have to make sure we're getting paid for the job at hand, because even the repeat people often show up with a Dell they bought at Future Shop. The notion of loyalty exists, but it is not a working system any more.