It’s a tough road out there in business, one must work incredibly hard to “get somewhere” and once one arrives it can be hard to maintain the momentum it takes to remain at the top.
One of the risks a company faces as they find themselves at “the top” is client demand of the entrepreneur increases. As that client base increases visibility strengthens and larger clients begin to emerge. It is pretty damn exciting to find yourself sipping champagne and celebrating large contracts and a new focus. But what of the clients who got you there, the small folks who took a risk and used your products or services sight-unseen?
Last week as I visited my folks, I learned they’d sprung a leak in their pool house. I don’t know anything about pools but my thought is leak=bad. For 3 days my father had been calling the pool company who services their pool and finally got an answer the morning I arrived. “We can come in 5 days” was the answer.
It seems they were the only pool shop in town for a number of years and folks in town truly supported the company growth. The municipality have now signed maintenance contracts with the pool company and so business has changed from a shop where you can walk in off the street and call at anytime to an organization with closed access, no street presence and clearly choosing not to answer the phone if the caller ID suggests it is not someone to whom they care to respond.
OUCH! The pool company gave no notice to the existing clients with “new rules of the game” and no other options were provided. They have become too big for their britches.
My folks are truly great people. They love to support local businesses and while that’s honorable they sometimes do so at the expense of the customer service for which they are paying. Success for this company is always something to celebrate, especially in times like this, but the company has not done their homework in understanding how to deal with the loyal customers who brought them that success.
Leadership does not mean treating ‘old’ customers as a nuisance just because you’ve changed your business direction.
The bonus here is another small start-up pool business now exists in town, finally. Five minutes after calling the first company, my dad called the new pool company. Voila! “Sir, I will have someone there this morning to take a look” was the cheerful response. Within 3 hours the problem was solved.
If you were the first company, how might you have managed your loyal customers upon changing your company direction?