Hey, it felt very good to type in '21!
I’m a customer who has just been fired! Unfortunately, the decision makes sense. It does NOT, however, make any sense to sever the relationship in this manner.
Every now and then I make a delightful wine. This endeavor would very charitably be labeled a hobby “business”. This is not – repeat NOT a sales pitch, but if you want to see what I'm doing, check it out at www.calderacuvee.com.
One of the keys to this “operation” is the fulfillment warehouse which automatically receives and processes any order placed via the website. As far as I'm concerned it works like magic! I assure you IF I had to select, pack, properly label, call UPS, Fed Ex or GSO and then ship each-and-every order, Caldera Cuveé would quickly become a chore (or worse) rather than a delightful enterprise. In all probability, it would never have happened.
This fulfillment organization has transitioned through ownership changes in recent years and current management has decided my “volume” is inadequate. As a business decision, it’s understandable.
How would you communicate this?
Most would call the long-time customer (five years in my case!), explain the situation/decision, ideally suggest an alternate solution, maybe even offer a “grace” period, certainly apologize, and, most importantly, THANK me for my patronage. Right?
Here’s what occurred: I received an email from an unrecognized name (not identified, no signature, no logo, no nothing) which outlined how their many changes and improvements would better serve clientele. I was encouraged to “consolidate” any fulfillment duties others might be handling or that were processed internally so I’d exceed their new minimums. This person “hoped” I’d remain as a partner, but if not, I had till the end of the year to make alternate plans. The email I received was time-stamped December 8th at 3:59 pm.
In one short email (the sender called it a “letter”) I was transformed from a very satisfied, loyal and outspoken (albeit tiny) client into an ex-customer, who, no doubt about it, harbors sour grapes (pun intended) and holds current “management” (definitely not leadership!) in low regard. That’s an impressive feat!
The moral (s) to this tale?
- Pick up the frigging phone! I bet there were a half dozen, maybe a dozen, small operations like Caldera Cuveé. How hard would that have been?
- Remember customers are people. They have feelings and relationships and occasionally don’t take that proverbial “high road”. (Need I also point out that small businesses occasionally grow into larger ones. Imagine!)
- Three weeks? Really? That simply sucks! Have the conversation and then set a reasonable time giving the customer a chance to transition to a Plan Next, whatever that might be.
- The “Golden Rule” is just that…GOLDEN! The bosses here failed miserably! (BTW, my experience and interaction with the actual CSR team left me very satisfied!)
I’d argue those four items apply to one heck-of-a-lot of situations. Offering services that scale and are not ideal for all size customers is not a new or unique business challenge. You can find that issue in all sorts of industries. These happen to be incredibly relevant to my world right now, but it is my hope you ask yourself, WHERE and HOW and DO they apply in yours?
Now that 2020 is safely in our rear-view mirrors, let’s kick ass and take names this year, ok? I pledge to do so if you will!?