Fire Your Customers

I fired a customer.

“There’s an irate customer on the phone. He received the wrong product.” My receptionist was the absolute best sales person on the team. Sweet, cordial, smart, kind—she was the first “voice” of the company to the customer and she was the best. Honestly, I could go on about her.

This wasn’t a big deal. We had a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. We’ll do it until its right. We had a very low error rate on the team. No big deal—until she said, “He’s been cursing at me and calling me names.” I reached for my proverbial blaster weapon. I could hear the hurt in her voice. I would have simply fixed the sale, but my values and my culture don’t allow for bad treatment of my people. Ever.

I took the call.

Funny thing about people that yell at your support staff—when they get to the president,  they’re all nice and happy—nothing like they way they just treated your people.

“Hi, this is Royce. I understand there’s a problem. How can I fix it for you?” He was really nice and told me that the packaging on the product was correct but the product was not correct. It happens. I told him to send back the product on our shipping number and we would remanufacture today and ship out tomorrow. He was happy with that.

We were done so I asked him if indeed he had said certain things to my staff (she had given me details. We’ve dealt with this problem before…). He paused, fidgeted, and started making some excuse that was nothing like an apology. I stopped him and simply said, “Jim, we appreciate your business, but after this order, do not call back. I do not continue to work with people that cannot control themselves and who treat my people badly. I would never treat your people this way. Frankly, I wouldn’t treat your dog this way. When you grow in this area, we can reconsider a good business relationship.”

I’m sorry—wait, no I’m not—my people don’t deserve to be humiliated or degraded. Without them, I am nothing. They’ve worked hard to be the best at what they do and I’ve worked hard to help them get there and get the company where it is. It was the right thing to do.

You understand “good business” right? That’s when you and the customer are getting equal value out of a product and the relationship. It is not good business for me to gouge the customer with pricing. It is not good business for the customer to get the product for as little as possible. Both scenarios will devalue the process and end up giving poor product or business failure.

Full disclosure. I didn’t always think this way. I learned it from a manager at Costco years ago. I was at my local Costco and they had screwed up a fax order. I was trying to get it fixed but the admin person wasn’t getting it. I didn’t cuss or degrade, but I did have a bad attitude towards him.

He got a manager—without me asking—and that manager was tough with me. Not mean or disrespectful, but tough. He would not let me get away with my attitude. And you know what? He was right. I thought long and hard about that. I went home and it stuck with me all day and night and I decided he was right. As well, I never wanted anybody to treat my people badly. New value created. And it’s been a win-win ever since.

Do you value your people? More than your business? If not, replace those people—you don’t have the right ones. Or, replace yourself—you’re not the right leader for your team. Or grow your leadership ability and learn how to do the right thing. All are viable—the last one probably being the best choice. You may still do the others over time, but if you know how to lead, you will succeed.

Protect Your Team

  1. Don’t let others treat your team badly. Simple.
  2. Plan how to handle these calls with your team so your people can stop a customer before the customers get into trouble.
  3. Help them grow. Sit down with everyone on your team and see where they want to be in 5 or 10 years and figure out how to get them to where they want to be—even if it’s not within your company. That’s right. After that, put in place a way for them to grow. If they do, help them get to their definition of success. If they are unwilling to grow, help them find their passion and move on. I love Zig Ziglar’s old quote, “would you rather train your people and possibly lose them, or not train them and keep them!” Think about it.
  4. Fight bad attitudes. In customers, the team, and especially yourself. Are you the chief evangelist or not?? Help people stop taking themselves so seriously and respect and appreciate each other.
  5. Don’t treat anyone badly. Don’t treat customers badly or treat each other badly. Everybody has a tough day. But if you’ve made it a habit to be mean to any degree and are not willing to change, this is not the place you want to work.
  6. Help your team understand your culture and embrace it.
  7. Know and understand your values. Although part of culture, what do you stand for? What do you value the most? Understand values deeply and understand the values of your team. Help one another accept or at least respect those values.
  8. Delivery a very quality product. It makes your team proud and your customers happy. It’s a def win-win.
  9. Communicate with your team. What do they want? How can their day be better? How can you help them succeed so you can succeed?
  10. Finally, grow your leadership lid (ability) so you will know when to do the right thing. It’s not hard, but does take 30 minutes a day to keep growing. If you don’t embrace change and growth the most, no one else will. As the president goes, so goes the company.

It’s All About People

Always has been, always will be. You will hear me say this until they bury me. If you’re not a people person, you can learn to be. If you are a people person, use your people abilities to the fullest advantage for your people and your company. Treat people well and they will be loyal to a fault. Treat them badly and you’ll never recover. This concept is really that simple.

Got ideas on how to protect your team? Send them my way in the comments section. I seriously value your input—and I’m sure others will too.

MAKE it a great day!