How to keep the people who keep you in Business?

Posted On January 11, 2007 | Written by Emmanuel Oluwatosin

The time was 3pm GMT and knew I just could not afford to close for the day. Just as I was thinking of how to maximise the remaining time so as to be able to complete my tasks for the day, my phone rang. I picked the phone but could sense the frustration in the tone of the person at the end of the line. The person at the other end of the phone is one of our clients at [tag]Nairahost[/tag] and he currently has about 4 hosting accounts with us.

He got a mail from us earlier in the week reminding him of the need to renew one of his hosting accounts. Instead of just making the necessary payment for the renewal of the hosting account, he went ahead to place an order on our website. Our system, therefore, treated it as a new order. Our billing system just recreated his account and sent him the account details.

I listened careful to what he had to say and requested for his old username. I restored his former account and he became a happy man. I looked through the whole situation again and I observed some important things a business owner needs to do if he needs to really keep the people that keep him in business.

  1. [tag]Customers[/tag] are always right. Most customers might not know what they actually want and in the process of speaking with them, them might annoy you. You just have to remain calm and listen careful to what they have to say. This will help you to understand their challenges and at the same time identify what you need to do immediately. When it seems the customer is wrong, you still have to do everything to ensure that customer is satisfied. A satisfied customer will keep coming back.

    it takes more effort to get a new customer than to keep the existing ones

  2. Respond immediately. When something is wrong, people want and expect to have it fixed immediately.
  3. Figure out, communicate and agree upon a solution or resolution. Confirm it (in writing if necessary). Do it.
  4. Show the customers that you are committed to make them happy. This works like magic. Even if you do not understand what to do immediately, still let them know you care and that you would do everything to solve the problem as soon as possible.
  5. Make a follow-up call after the situation is resolved. This works like magic. I spoke with my client after his problem was resolved and what he said amazes me

    Thanks a lot guys you saved my neck. Great Nairahost!

  6. Get a letter from the customer if you can. Resolving a problem in a positive way establishes a solid base for long-term relationships. Tell the customer you would appreciate a sentence or two about how the situation was resolved. My client has agreed to write a testimonial to be used on our website 🙂

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4 Responses

  1. Beautiful piece here, Emmanuel. Your article provides an opportunity to discuss an issue I have always had problems with, and I hope you don’t mind discussing it.

    The first point you gave in your list says: Customers are always right.

    The problem I have nwith that statement is that it simply is not true. If it is not true, why then do we use it/ Why not use, say, Always treat customers with respect?, or Customers always deserve respect and consideration?

    Over the years, I have dealt with situations in which the customer was clearly wrong – and I had to tell tham so. I put it in diplomatic-speak, nice words, put on my best smile, and put some warmth into my voice.

    In this part of the world in which a lot of people are not properly informed, customers often make demands that are outside of your jurisdiction. In which case, they have got something wrong. It is part of our job to provide enlightenment and education.

    Is it that we simply picked up that one-liner because that is what the business schools and books teach? If so, we may need to change it. What say ye?

  2. hm… uncle Yomi, I like your line of thought. But I will like to point out that customers are still the main reason why you are in business. I have learnt over time to not only treat customers with respect but also to treat them as king.

    It is true that some customers are not informed. They may not even understand what they want per time. But if they face a challenge just by using your service, it is your work to accept the responsibility to clean the mess.

    For instance, the client that I mentioned in my write-up got a mail that he should renew his hosting account but instead placed order for a new one. When I spoke with him on phone, he insisted that he spoke with one of us on phone who told him to place another order. This, definitely, is not the reflection of what happened. But I still had to accept the responsibility that the mistake comes from us.

    If you find yourself in this kind of situation, what will you do?

  3. @Emmanuel: In the scenario you described above, it is indeed possible that the mistake was from your end if it was not made clear to the customer how the renewal should be effected. It is your responsibility to provide detailed and accurate information.

    If you did this, then what happened was the customer’s fault, and I won’t take responsibility for it. We have had a few customers even lose their domain names to scenarios similar to this. Some gave the excuse that they did not read their mails for a long time and so did not see the renewal notices. Others had one issue or the other.

    But they were mostly sensible enough not to make us look like the bad guys. The few who were dishonest enough to attempt to blame us were politely told that they were wrong to do so. We have a contract: we remind you; you before so-so date.

    Once we had done our part, our obligations were met. If the customer chooses to migrate to another webhost, its his call and we assist him make the transition as stressless as possible. We will stay polite, courteous, and helpful, but we have a zero tolerance for manipulators.

    Business is about mutual respect and trust. That we serve people does not necessarilly make us their slaves who must grovel.

    While customers are important to the running of any business, they are not king. At least not in my books.

  4. The client actually got a mail from us stating what he needed to do to renew his account but he went ahead to speak with one of our agents whoo mislead him. So, I would say that the mistake is partly ours and partly the client.

    One thing I have found out is that most clients do not always want to read or use emails. They would rather speak with you on phone. Anyway, I have learnt to state clearly our TOS to all clients. Thanks for the contribution

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