After the Love Has Gone

Earth, Wind & Fire recorded a song in 1979 called, After the Love Has Gone. And of course there was the classic 1976 tune by KISS, Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em. There’s an eerie parallel with these titles and our relationships – with our friends and with our customers. Remember when we were growing up? Most of us had a number of friends during our school years. Then we launched our careers and families, and guess what? Many of those friendships went on hold. We found ourselves burning the candle at both ends and struggling to make the kids’ soccer games, juggle business trips with date nights, and generally keep our heads above water. Sound familiar? Gradually we sort of drifted away from all but a very small, close-knit group of friends. If we are introspective about our entrepreneurial lives, is the same thing happening with our business relationships?  

I’ve written before about my philosophy on relationships. I want to build and nurture as many relationships as possible over the course of my career for the purpose of serving them. And I’ve said before that I try to do this without any sense of quid pro quo. Deep at my core I believe that if we are truly committed to serving our relationships in whatever way possible, the Law of Attraction will bring great good into our lives.

So what happens after the sale? We work hard for six months (sometimes much longer) to build a relationship with a prospective customer. Then she buys what we’re selling. We’re elated and we make sure that the product or service is delivered in fine fashion. Then what? Six months later, what have we done to maintain the relationship? If the customer is going to buy our product or service on a recurring basis, chances are that we’ll stay in touch and continue “selling.” Maybe we take the customer to a ballgame or out for dinner. But what about a customer that has purchased something and there’s virtually no chance that another purchase will occur in the future? Do we “love ‘em and leave ‘em?

It’s rare that we find an entrepreneur who builds the relationship for the purpose of serving it. Usually there are strings attached. I’ve been on the receiving end of this my entire life. When someone wants to sell me something they butter me up and shower me with accolades, gifts and other forms of attention. If I don’t buy, they may try for a while, but eventually they drift away. If I do buy and there’s not a reason to buy the same product or service again, I’m usually dropped like a hot potato within a week. The National Sales Executive Association says that 80% of sales are made on the fifth through the twelfth contact. This means that a significant amount of time and effort must be invested to build a relationship sufficient to close the deal. This being the case, why would we not want to continue to maintain that relationship in perpetuity?

Some of us may be thinking, “This makes sense. Even though the customer might not buy again from us, keeping the relationship alive could be good for referrals.” Yes, this may be true, BUT once again we’ve attached strings to the relationship. What if we maintained the relationship because it’s the right thing for us to do? What if we maintained the relationship because we genuinely want to help other people? What if we maintained the relationship because it’s a form of expressing gratitude for all of the wonderful things that others have done for us? If we’re thinking that we just don’t have time to nurture relationships after the sale, then we are working against the Law of Attraction. There’s good flowing all around us – but if we start putting limits on our relationships we’re preventing that good from flowing our way.

Maintaining friendships and business relationships requires an intentional effort. It also means that we have to make a choice about the true purpose of such relationships. Will it be “Get Off of My Cloud” (Rolling Stones – 1965) or “Better Together” (Jack Johnson – 2005)?

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 11 – A Warm Blanket.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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The Royal Treatment

I’ll bet there are a million books that have been written about customer service. I even wrote one that was published in 1991 called The Customer Is King! How has customer service been for you lately? Have all of the books that have been written over the last 20-some odd years done any good? Is customer service any better today than in the past?

There is a way to ensure that we receive top-quality service with each and every encounter (well almost). It’s been working for me flawlessly for many years and I can assure you that it will work for you as well. Yes, we’re the customer and we should be treated like royalty – right? Well, what if we treat the service provider like royalty too? I have made true friends with many individuals who provide service to me. And the word “friends” is important here. I treat them like I would treat a friend.

I always try and know the name of the person serving me. That’s the best way to start a friendship. And I use their name throughout the service experience – not in a patronizing or schmaltzy way, but in a natural conversational manner. I look them in the eye and smile. At some point in the encounter I may ask them something about themselves. Why? Because I really want to know more about them. I’ll joke and tease with them because that’s my personality. If someone provides excellent service, I make sure and tell him or her what a terrific job he/she did. And I also make sure and tell the manager the same thing. I may also shake hands with the service provider, especially if he’s a man. If the circumstances are appropriate I make certain that I tip generously, rounding up to the nearest dollar. At Christmas, I give $100 in cash to a couple of servers who regularly serve me at my favorite restaurants. In one case I know that my gift made a significant difference in what he was able to do for his family during the holidays.

We eat regularly at a local restaurant and have often been served by a 50-something woman. She wasn’t easy to warm-up, but when she did crack a smile it was radiant. At one point I told her how beautiful her smile was and I thought she was going to cry. I talked to her about her daughter and her mother and learned more about her life experiences. Today she is extraordinarily warm and outgoing with us. She goes to great lengths to make sure our service is outstanding. The effort I expend is nominal and I’m completely genuine about my interest in those providing service to me.

If something about the product or service isn’t quite right I don’t hesitate to talk to the service provider or the manager about it. I always do so in a friendly and respectful way. Throwing a tantrum and acting like a jerk doesn’t do anything to build friendships or treat everyone like royalty. More often than not the situation is corrected and though I never expect or request it, my bill is reduced or I receive a gift coupon.

Treating service providers like royalty is rare these days. Usually they simply blend into the background. When I interview someone for a job, I like to do so over a meal so I can see how well the person treats the wait staff. If her or she is gracious and acknowledges the server there’s a reasonable chance that the interviewee has a good customer service perspective. Numerous prospective team members have not been hired because they didn’t even show common courtesy to the server.

We have every right to expect excellent customer service. And we’ll receive it if we treat our service provider like a king or queen. It’s human nature to return kindness with kindness.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Bridges

Question: Sometimes I get so angry with people that I want to tell them exactly how I feel about them. Don’t you think that such honesty is always the best policy?

Answer: Well, yes and no. We have to evaluate how the other person will react to our “honesty” and we also need to understand whether we are really being constructive with our comments or simply seeking the satisfaction of telling someone off.

There have been many times over my career that I’ve felt wronged by someone and wanted to lambaste them for what they did. I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve written to such people; put them in the drawer; “slept on it,” and then never mailed the letters (or hit the Send button for an e-mail). I guess writing the letters and e-mails was therapeutic but a little voice kept telling me not to follow-through and send them.

Recently a former investor of ours was in my office visiting from another city. Toward the end of our relationship with his firm things became a bit strained. We had gone above and beyond our contractual obligations with his company and yet there was no “give” on his part. However, we went out of our way to keep things businesslike and cordial. He commented during his recent meeting with me that he respected the way we handled the situation. He pointed out that he was in our office talking to us about doing another deal with his firm because we did not burn bridges with him.

Reacting emotionally and burning bridges may feel good at the time. But in the long run it costs us relationships, friendships and money. I still get irritated with people that don’t adhere to my business principles and values. However, I’ve come to realize that making the choice to protect the relationship is much more important and I quickly moderate my emotions. Sure it’s hard to smile and keep an even tone – but we never know when that person who has caused the irritation may become our best client or even our best friend.

I’ve said for years that one of my objectives as an entrepreneur is to collect and serve as many relationships as I possibly can over the course of my career. A lot of time and effort is invested in doing this – so why would I want to throw this all away by burning a bridge with one of these relationships? Perhaps when a bridge becomes shaky or weak, the best course of action is to work to strengthen it rather than burning it.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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