Takin’ Care Of Business

A mungous hit for Bachman-Turner Overdrive in January of the grand musical year, 1974…

“I love to work at nothin’ all day…”

Last time we shared with you a rather nasty letter sent by my former garbage hauling company, after it learned we had switched our service.  The letter was at best, ineffective and at worst, insulting.  But the question persists: why would a person switch from the small, local service provider to a larger, international conglomerate?  Shouldn’t the local guy be able to provide better, more personal service, be nicer to deal with and generally “take care of business?”

One would think.

But simply being a small, local service provider guarantees neither satisfactory service nor customer loyalty.

Here’s the back story of why we changed garbage haulers…

A guy knocked on our door one cold, snowy night. He was a local guy who’d recently lost his job and was trying to make ends meet selling door-to-door for a large, national garbage hauling conglomerate. I wasn’t looking to switch, but I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the local provider, either.

For the next 45 minutes, he shared what the new company could offer: weekly garbage pick-up, weekly yard waste pickup and single-sort recycling with a nice, big barrel.  The old company wouldn’t pick up yard waste. We had to drive it across town to their facility with a 5-bags-per-trip limit, which was strictly – and grumpily – enforced. For recycling, they gave you a small bin and you had to separate everything into shopping bags or they wouldn’t pick it up.

The price was comparable.  If there was a high-pressure tactic, I missed it. And if they promised me anything I wanted to hear, well, I missed that, too.

But I did think of all the times I hauled yard waste and other junk to the old company’s facility to be greeted by surly, non-helpful employees who couldn’t be bothered with a mere customer.

Then there was the copper incident.

After a home plumbing project, I had some scrap copper to dispose of. I went to the facility and asked the attendant if they bought scrap copper.  He looked at me as if I had tried to steal one of his kidneys. He gave me an abrupt, curt and downright rude, “no,” and went back to what must have been a life-saving crossword puzzle.

While he technically answered my question, he hadn’t done much to help solve my problem. So I asked what I should do with my scrap copper.

He looked at me for a second, ready to tell me exactly what I could do with my scrap copper.

He sighed — not his fault his employers had such morons for customers — and without looking up from the crossword, pointed in the general direction of a dumpster.

I dumped my scrap, about 30 bucks worth, and then dumped my 5-bag limit of yard waste (I had 10 more bags at home, so there’d be 2 more trips to the facility).  As I was leaving the yard, I saw my friend walking to HIS car with MY scrap copper.   Not long afterwards, the new company knocked on our door.

I was all ears.

Then I get this photocopied form letter.

Now, I’m all for the little, local guy.  I’m all for keeping jobs in town.  But the little guy, being the little guy, has to do better, be easier to deal with and offer more convenience and personal service. Why didn’t the owner or a key operative call me and ask some questions? Find out directly from me why I decided to make the change. Don’t assume it’s because I’m an idiot.  It’s really not that hard: Did we do anything wrong?  What can we do to earn your business back?

Instead, I get a photocopied form letter basically calling me an a-hole for firing his company.

And get this: no one even put their name on the form letter.

Instead, the closing salutation reads: “The entire Ace Disposal family and staff.”  He did tell me (not ask, tell!) to call today, but neglected to tell me for whom I should ask.  Sure seems like the big boss is too busy to take my call.

Or even sign his name.

There are lots of morals to this story. First,  everyone in the operation is a representative of your company, and anyone who interacts with customers affects your business.  Are your people treating your customers the way you would want to be treated?

Or do they treat customers as an annoyance?

Are you providing services to your customers that are for their convenience, or for yours?

And do your rules and policies make your customers’ lives easier, or more difficult?

If you’re a small, local company competing against the big guys, you better have the right answers.  And even then, that doesn’t guarantee anything.

It just gets you an opportunity.

Customers come and go for a wide variety of reasons, and it’s best not to assume you know what those reasons are.  Find out personally, and take responsibility.

’74 was a coming out party for the Bachman-Turner Overdrive.  This one hit #1 that fall…

Those Canadians sure can rock!

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