News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 19, 2013

Business Cents: Customers and companies: Sugar goes further than vinegar

Heather Strohm
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Working with companies for more than decade I am still shocked to learn how not only companies react to customers but also how rude customers can be to companies. I am a firm believer that customer service actually goes both ways if the customer wants an exemplary experience from the company. The old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the oil is not always true in current business practices. Valued customers with positive attitudes are tremendous assets to companies and their existing revenue streams. Does this mean that those customers add regular revenue to that company directly? No, it means that customers who are loyal add indirect revenue to companies through testimonies of their service experience as well as referrals.

Listed below are things that we as customers should learn and understand regarding being nice to our service providing companies:

1. Communication is vital. We should tell companies that we are loyal to them and why we selected them over their competition. By sharing this information with the company, you have created a foundation for a longterm service-oriented relationship and the company will understand the impact it will have for you to support their business.

2. Tell the company what you want and need from them and be direct. Informing companies of your needs and wants lets them keep their services in line with consumer demand so that they constantly are ensuring your demands are met.

3. Be nice. Just as you don’t like working with rude and arrogant people, companies don’t either. Let me ask you a question. If you were a customer service representative and had a rude customer on the phone or in front of you with a valid complaint or customer that had a valid complaint but was nice and understanding about the incident, which do you think you would go the extra mile for? Now that doesn’t mean each customer would not have their complaint settled, but the nicer customer will have a better experience in resolving the matter and the company may possibly work harder to retain that customer than the customer that was disrespectful and rude to the employee.

And here are a couple tips for companies when dealing with customers:

1. Treat customers as you would treat personal relationships. Customers like to feel valued and important. Try to implement the concept of under promise and over deliver in order to exceed customer expectations.

2. Respond to customer inquiries in a timely manner. Today’s society is one of instant gratification and operate on a 24-hour clock. Extended downtime in responding to customer inquiries is unacceptable to many customers and can jeopardize relationships.

In conclusion, customers always want a positive experience at a company. I am a firm believer that the better the customer’s own personal attitude is then the better the company will take care of them. Rude customers receive service and their needs are satisfied, but typically employees will not take that extra mile from what I have researched to make sure that customer walks away with a smile on their face. So both customers and companies need to remember that “sugar goes a lot further than vinegar.”

Heather (Penney) Strohm is the regional director for Indiana State University’s Indiana Small Business Development Center.