If I could give one piece of advice to young business people trying to make their mark in the world, it would be this: Quit trying to make your mark. Just say what you’ll do, and do what you say!

When a potential customer asks if you can deliver product with zero defects 100 percent of the time, how would you answer?  If your answer is “Absolutely, yes. We can deliver a perfect product 100 percent of the time,” then you have violated this principle before the relationship has even started. After hearing this, most prospective customers would shrug their shoulders in disbelief or say, “Right…but at what price?” Many would just send you packing.

So, perhaps your answer is this: “We will deliver products that meet or exceed your expectations nearly all of the time, and for those times that we fall short, we will do everything in our power to make things right.” So this is what you’ll do. But, will you do what you say?  For example, if manufacturing slips up, and product is delayed several days later than promised, and the customer is nearly out of product, will you pay for expedited shipping or will you bill the customer for the difference?

Have you ever heard of Stephen Covey’s concept of the emotional bank account? A similar principle applies to your business relationships with customers. Every business relationship will have bumps in the road, but it is how you react in these situations that determines the “business credibility equity” (I call it BCE) that you have earned with each customer.

In the preceding scenario, if you paid for the expedited shipping, then you have earned BCE in this relationship despite the shortcoming. But if you made the customer pick up the tab, then you have incurred what I call BCD or “Business Credibility Debt.” Just as Covey warned of letting your emotional bank account go empty, the same applies here. You don’t want your BC account to hit a zero balance or, God forbid, be overdrawn. Once you lose a customer, it is ten times harder to when this customer back then it was landing them as a client in the first place.

Once, I was involved in securing a new customer for a hardware company that I represented, and this customer asked the question, “We pride ourselves on shipping to our customers within our promised delivery time. So, what happens if your hardware comes in pre-configured with the wrong components?” The company sales manager simply replied, “I cannot promise you that this will never happen. Even though mistakes are rare, they occasionally do happen. But I pledge to you that if this does happen, then we will do everything in our power to make it right.” Here was this sales manager just simply stating what we would do.

Well, the day eventually came when we did ship hardware to this company pre-configured with the wrong components. The customer called me and was very upset. I got a hold of the company’s sales manager, and he said that the company did have the correct components back at their factory but that somehow the incorrect components were indeed installed in the hardware by mistake.

I asked the sales manager, “Well, given the time constraints that we are faced with, what will we be willing to do? Will we ship the customer the correct components and have his people disassemble the hardware sets and install the correct components?” “Heck no,” said the sales manager emphatically, “I will fly there with the correct parts, and you will meet me there. Then you and I will spend the entire afternoon in their factory. We will personally disassemble all 200 hardware sets, install the correct components and then re-assemble them. That is what we’ll do!”

It took us several hours, but we got it done. This event was a classic display of how a bad situation could be turned into a positive one. This customer went from being very upset to being truly impressed with the level of commitment that was displayed by the company. Our BC account had a huge equity balance after this event.

Now, say you are a competitor trying to steal this business, and you go to this prospect (our customer) and say, “We are not like that other company you are dealing with now. We never screw up. We get it right it right the first time and every time!”

So, what do you think his chances will be of stealing this account from us? Remember, “Say what you’ll do, and do what you say.”

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the reminder Jim of how business should be done for every single customer every single day!

  2. If all companies worked like that our jobs would be so much better!

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