After receiving some positive feedback on my recent customer service article, I thought I would continue with the odd off-topic article (defined as non-Dynamics-GP). I'm certainly finding recently a whole LOT of examples of shall we say "learning experiences" to draw from!

Having recently moved, we are undertaking some renovations to the house over the next little while, some relatively minor, some relatively major. It's been an eye-opener so far in terms of how the various people we have been dealing with run their businesses. While I certainly am far from perfect, I would like to think that I would do things much better than some of these folks given the opportunity.

Don't ask me for my requirements, just tell me some negative stuff!

I was looking to buy a new fireplace grate for a wood-burning fireplace. At one store I went to, I was asked what I was looking for and if they could help me in any way. Good start! "Yes, I am looking for a grate for my fireplace". We were standing in front of their display with what appeared to be two styles of grates. The gentleman's response to me was "That grate" (pointing to one of the styles) "won't last if having a fire every day".

Hmmm…. maybe they should ask a couple of questions before losing an easy sale. I'm no rocket scientist but hey, "How often do you use your fireplace?" seems like a good starting point to me, followed by "We have two models to consider, this one here is what I recommend if you use your fireplace a lot since it will last a long time. This other model will certainly suit you just fine if you only have the occasional fire."

Instead, I left the store with a lot of doubt in my mind about the first grate, since he planted that seed so well, and they didn't have the size I needed in the other sturdier model. Business lost. I bought a grate elsewhere an hour later! If selling ANYTHING, services or products, retail or otherwise, start with asking some questions: qualify, understand the requirements, THEN recommend, and yes please make a recommendation. Anyone can be trained to tell you about a product. It takes experience to take that along with a person's requirements and recommend something to them.

I'll get back to you

This is a common one. "I'll get back to you" is such a common phrase in business and there is nothing wrong with it unless they don't! We called some firms to come in regarding some possible structural changes. One fellow who seemed like a nice guy said he'd talk to his architect or engineer, and they would get back to us within a few days. It's been two months; we didn't bother to follow up since neither did they. Another fellow was building a house for a friend of ours and had an appointment to come by the house to look at the same structural stuff. He didn't show up, no phone call. We followed up, and we booked another visit, but he didn't show up, and he didn't call. That was also two months ago. The third example was another tradesperson, who spent time with us early in September, and said the quote would be ready in a few days. After about 6 weeks and my follow up the response was "I'm having trouble quoting this one" and came back to take another look. "Will have a quote for you in a couple of days". I had to follow up again, "I'm too busy to quote right now". We finally got a quote and booked the work, 3 months later than we wanted.

For the most part, and this could be a "thing" in the construction industry, we have generally found that the people we felt most comfortable with and wanted to continue to pursue, we have had to follow up with them to keep the conversation going. It kills me, if my business is important, I shouldn't be pursuing them it should be the other way around.

You're busy, I get it

In the construction industry, I've been told not to hire the guy/gal who can start your job tomorrow, they should be busy. I get that. What I believe many of these businesses and people can learn is, that unless they don't want the business, keep in touch somehow. Find 5 minutes to update someone. Acknowledge a person's email or phone call so they know you got it, even if you can't respond right away.

Communication is so important yet so overlooked. All these people have to do is communicate. Are there delays? Just let us know, somehow, please, give us a small indication they want my business because I'm sure happy to tell everyone how fabulous their work is when they're done if you do.