Customers of Different Stripes

I'm what I consider a very logical, systems oriented person and you'll hear me ask all the time, "does that make sense?"after explaining a procedure or why I did something the way I did it. This logical mind of mine can prove to be aggravating to those people that are the types that say, "that's our policy" or "that's just always been the way we have done it."

So this past week I dealt with a services switchover for a client from one vendor to another. It was a phone and data switch, which involved the current vendor, the new vendor, the phone system vendor and the IT vendor and I'm stuck in the middle. The new vendor schedules the switch date and gives me the standard, "we'll be there sometime between 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm." So, for the past week I have been hounding everyone I can at the new vendor's office about can you please give me a more exact time because I have to coordinate other people to be there and I don't want to pay them to stand around and do nothing for 4 hours (particularly at $125 an hour each - you do the math). This wastes everyone's time and money. I'm hounding the salesperson because he is the one I have a relationship with and he is stuck between a rock and hard place because I'm sure I'm aggravating him and his company won't empower him to take the "bull by the horns" and just work something out.

So how do companies solve this kind of business problem? First, it is recognizing that this consumer set has different needs than their typical consumer and realizing there is an issue and identifying it. This is where a good business management consultant, like moi (I was a French minor in college), comes in and gives the organization ways to solve problems, be more efficient, save money and make customers happy. Business customers are have different needs and coordinate many different moving pieces and if you are an organization that insists on sticking to your service "window" you need to explore ways to satisfy consumers that have different needs from your core customers, like give your sales staff more insight and training into the installation process. I don't mean train them on how to install, I mean training on how long it takes to do an installation like it takes about an hour to an hour and a half to wire the system. Hear me out on this - had my salesperson told me, "you are the second call for the tech on his schedule and he will spend an hour to an hour and half installing the equipment and wiring," I could have figured out for my planning purposes that the tech will probably get there around 2:30 pm and he will need to do his prep work for about an hour and a half so I need to schedule the phone systems vendor and the IT vendor to be there at 4:00 pm. Had the salesperson been taught the process, he would have been able to guide me through this planning process saving us all time and money.

In the end, they are giving me a credit on my bill to compensate me for my expense of scheduling my other vendors to stand around and wait on them. It isn't the salesperson's fault (who, BTW, redeemed himself and is back to being my BFF) and is trying to make me happy by reimbursing me, which is awesome and I really appreciate it, but it is this kind of inefficiency that could have been avoided if they thought of the process more logically and recognized that business clients have very different needs from their typical customer. The point is that as a business owner/manager think about all your customer segments and how their needs are different and how can you tweak your system slightly to meet their needs. Sometimes it is just a small change that can make a big difference between a somewhat satisfied customer and a raving fan.