Excerpt: 'The Wisdom of Ginsu'

People ask me all the time, "Why is your business so successful when many in your industry are failing?" Simple, I do the basics: return phone calls. Always work in the best interest of my clients. Make my clients and customers feel special. I under-promise and overdeliver. I tell them how much I appreciate their business, and mean it. It's like the cartoon I once read. A salesman goes into a client's office with a big sign that says, "We want your business and we'll kiss your ass to get it." Now, that's the way to get business!

Thanks to the people who don't get it yet! Just think, if they didn't exist, it would be even more difficult to make money than it already is. Not returning phone calls is as silly as what some companies do unwittingly to torture their consumers. They use a voice-mail receptionist that leads to voice mail for departments that leads to voice mail for individuals. Even the voice mail has voice mail!

"Hi, Ima Unareachable's voice mail is full, if you'd like to leave a message, you can do so in our company's general mailbox." Ever try to reach a living person at one of these companies? How about retail stores? Same thing. Why don't they just say, "Hi, we don't have anyone who can talk to you right now, so if you drive all the way down to our store, we'll be happy to tell you we don't have that in stock."

What's next, will bad customer service be available in all languages? "Hi, if you would like bad service in English, press 1; bad service in Spanish, press 2."

What these companies seem to be saying is, "We'd rather find a new customer than hang on to an old one." Which is really no different than saying, "I'd rather buy a new engine than change the oil in this one!"

Take my most recent encounter with a famous-name super hardware store. I wanted to buy a fence for my yard. I made an appointment for the installer to come over one day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. No show. I called to complain, and after 20 minutes of voice-mail hell, I was promised a return phone call with a reason why the installer was a no-show. Nothing. Called again, nothing. Called again, nothing. They made me feel like I was Yasser Arafat waiting for Ariel Sharon to invite me over for dinner!

They didn't get back to me, so I got someone else. Not only did their competitor show up on time, but they sold me a fence and now have all of my business.

Now I don't want to pick on these giant hardware superstores, because I'm sure the majority of their workers are hardworking and conscientious, but what is going on here? Where has all the customer service gone? Is there some new subliminal mantra being played in the store's music system that is saying, "Screw the customer; we'll get new ones"? Makes you wonder.

Hey, why should I have to work that hard to give my money away? Never forget this if you are in a client/service business. Your job is to give service, not receive it.

Do you have any calls you haven't returned over the last several months? Call them all today and apologize for not calling sooner. Don't prioritize them, don't rule any out, and don't make any judgments. If you don't finish them all today, cross off the ones you make and finish the rest tomorrow. Or e-mail them some response to "keep the ball rolling."

"But I don't have the time!" you say.

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