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The Real Customers of Big and Small Companies and How It Affects You

by Andrew DePalma May 03, 2017

The Real Customers of Big and Small Companies and How It Affects You

I don't know about you, but I hate having to call big companies when I have a problem with their service.  

It is often a mix between Groundhog Day and Dante's 9 circles of hell. This at the top of my mind because over the last couple weeks, I have noticed a new “dead zone” in my cell service that is right next to my house.  If I happen to be on the phone when coming home from a certain direction, like clockwork, my call will be dropped.  As you can imagine, this is really annoying. 

My first thought was to gear up for battle and call the cell phone company to complain. Based on past experience though, I figured the best case scenario was spending 45 minutes telling my story to multiple supervisors, which would result in a few bucks off my bill for the next couple months. 

As the owner of a small custom furniture company, new dad, and husband, I think about time management (and when I used to get real sleep) A LOT. 

For me, it is not worth spending precious time to get a small, temporary decrease on my bill.  Especially when I know that time invested will not actually help solve the problem that I am complaining about.  

The reality is when you as a customer, are such a small part of the overall revenue of a company, your voice isn’t that loud.  There is a depersonalization and distance created between the paying customer and decision makers who have authority to actually do something about the problem. 

Now I’m not crazy...  Just because one customer has some dropped calls, does not mean that the phone company should jump into action and do something drastic like put up a new cell phone tower.  However, it is extremely unlikely that my complaints (or the combined complaints of my neighbors) would ever warrant someone high enough up the corporate ladder to solve our problem 

Since I own a small business, you may think you know where I am going...

But there are many business cases that can be made where it makes more financial sense to put band aids on problems rather than incurring the cost of fixing those problems. 

For example, if it cost 10 million dollars to put up a cell tower (I have no clue what it actually costs), but only $150k per year to hire 3 new customer service employees to field calls and give discounts, what would you do? At that rate, as long as the problem was not drastically affecting customer loyalty, you could pacify customers for 66 years without borrowing money, paying interest, or taking a huge capital hit.    

This may sound annoying but we make similar decisions in our personal lives every day. 

I have a faucet in my master bathroom that has a slow drip that I often hear at night before I go to sleep.  It is a reminder that I have things to do as I am trying to rest.  The pain of that annoyance has not yet motivated me to either: A) pay a plumber to come fix it, or B) do some investigating, watch some Youtube videos and fix it myself. 

How many times have you gone to your mechanic and they told you it’s prudent to spend $800 to get your car in tip top shape?  Instead you decided to just go with the oil change and will deal with that later.  We do this because we are weighing out the emotional, financial, and time costs of permanently solving vs temporarily solving the problem.

But what about small businesses…wouldn’t they make the same types of decisions? 

The answer is sort of.  Any small business that did not weigh out pros and cons of a temporary fix vs a permanent fix, would not be in business for too long. 

The difference between large and small companies, is that with small companies, individual customer voice is very loud, has a big impact on reputation and the bottom line.  For my own personal business, I obsess over customer reviews as each one matters.  

Not to mention that when dealing with a small, local business, you are generally speaking to someone who has authority to make a decision to fix a problem.  Worst case scenario, the person you are speaking to can walk down the hall and talk to someone who started the company. 

In addition, our primary customers are still our actual customers.  Compared to large companies where investors can be a primary customer.  Shareholders typically want a return on their investment (and rightfully so).  This can lead to the understandable scenario discussed earlier, where the “solution” to the problem, is to spend less money fielding more complaints instead of fixing a problem and taking a hit on an earnings report.

So what is my point in all of this? 

There are certain commodities that we use where we don’t have a lot of voting power when it comes to our wallets.  If I “fire” this big cell phone company, I will likely run into a similar problem with the next big cell phone company.  I also don’t know of a very many mom and pop cell phone companies where I can speak with an actual decision maker to listen to my problem and care.  However, there are certain commodities that we purchase where we do have a choice, which can lead to a big impact on the quality of the product, customer experience, and overall satisfaction.   

I personally think that changes to your home, custom building, furniture, and design, are circumstances worth considering using a small company with a proven track record of skill and expertise…Surprise!!! :)

Seriously though, helping make that space you are dreaming up a reality, takes a lot of hard work, listening, and communicating between designer, craftsman, builder and customer.  There will be times that come up in the process where challenges arise, plans change, or you simply need a more detailed explanation to make an educated decision

If you are working with a boutique company, we consider these opportunities to share our knowledge, reinforce the reality that you are our primary customer, and that your voice is paramount to our current and future success.  We don’t have the capital or luxury of throwing a customer service department at an issue.  Instead we work for you and with you to solve the issue at hand.

I would love to hear people’s opinions below…whether you agree with me or not.  Share experiences you have had where you think a big or small company is best!



Andrew DePalma
Andrew DePalma

Author

Andrew is the Owner of Open Door Furniture. He is passionate about building pieces of furniture that people love to see every day and can be enjoyed for generations.


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