Most of us have been to the doctor. I say most of us because we men are hard headed about going to the doc. My wife and I have spent more days than we care to count, with doctors, due to our special needs child. It was during one of these visits that I experienced a life lesson that served me well, in the future.
During the 90’s home maintenance organizations (HMOs) really expanded and became a hot button item. As this expansion happened, my wife and I experienced doctors that seemed rushed, due to the economics. For those of us in the call center industry, it was almost like they had an average handle time they had to adhere to so they could process as many patients, in a day, as possible. For those of us not in the industry, you know what rushed customer service feels like. My wife and I had traveled 55 minutes, on a hot southeast Texas day, to visit with a doctor for my daughter. We waited in a crowded waiting room for almost 2 hours, only to be called, brought to the back, and wait for another 45 minutes before the doctor would come in to visit with us. After barely a glance and a forced welcome statement, he rushed into the exam, and was about to exit the room after, literally, no more than 5 minutes. He didn’t even ask if we had any questions. As he turned to walk out of the room, I decided to tell the doctor what my expectations were, as nicely as I could. I expected that we be treated as if we were his only patients, regardless of the number of patients he has, or that are waiting in the lobby. After all, we were the customer and we deserve that treatment. I’m sure this flustered the already overworked doctor, but during the subsequent visits, our experience improved drastically.
During the late 90’s, I was an outside salesman, for a locally owned company. Every Christmas, it was my job to play “Santa” and I would deliver gifts to our clients. The big clients would get $100 hams and high dollar liquor. The medium sized clients would get good liquor, but not the top shelf stuff. The rest of the customers, depending on value, would get gift baskets or even just cards.
Fast forward about a decade. I was running a call center and I had a client that brought approximately $500k, per year, to the site. I personally liked this client and thought that they had a cool product and had a ton of potential for growth. They had really good margins, but not a tremendous amount of revenue. Also in the building, was a client that brought about $15 million in annual revenue to my site. From a corporate perspective, I could get all the help I needed for client number 2, but frequently, getting help for client number 1 was like pulling teeth. Corporate didn’t have patience for a “needy small client” and this frustrated the client, and rightfully so. The client wanted to be treated like a big client. This made me think about the visit to the doctor almost a decade earlier.
Obviously, a $15 million client is “more important” to your company’s revenue stream than is a $1 million client. But do you have to treat them differently?
It was then that I decided that, at a minimum, I would personally treat each and every client as if they were my only client, regardless of size. Think about it. Why shouldn’t I? It’s the right thing to do and my clients deserved it. Think about the parable of the mustard seed. The mustard seed is tiny, but grows into a tree that is greater than the herbs….of course I’m paraphrasing, but do you get my point? What if that small client is like the mustard seed and has explosive growth. I bet people would pay attention then. Lay that foundation now. Maybe that client doesn’t experience growth, but they refer other people to your business. Isn’t that valuable to your business?
Take this down to a personal level and think of the people you work with. No one likes to be a number. Be present when speaking with your peers or employees and make them feel like they are the only person that matters right then.
Putting this into practice takes time and patience, and it’s something I still have to work on perfecting every day. What experiences have you had that has changed your perspective on business?