Friday, January 22, 2016

Supplies with Demands

I receive at least two order status requests every day from one of our customers.  The process is automated.   Every email reply or request that we make goes unanswered.  We asked the customer to stop or at least cut down on the number of times they send these.  The customer has ignored us. 

One status inquiry proved to be for an order we have never received.  The customer was notified.  The requests for that order continue to arrive.  I wrote a rather direct note to the customer to let them know that we are absolutely tired of receiving the requests and we no longer have time to respond to them. 

The customer failed to respond and the emails continue to arrive.

This year, I raised my prices to that customer.  Call it an Attitude Adjustment. 

Another customer sent a request that we begin processing their payments on a credit card.  They still wanted net 30 terms.  They just wanted to put the net 30 terms on a credit card.  Otherwise, they told us, they would be paying in 45 days. 

We responded to the customer by giving them a choice.  We would be happy to process their payments via credit card with a 3% surcharge to their payments to cover the cost of credit card processing.  Or, they could continue paying us in net 30 days by check or by direct deposit since that is our payment term. 

The customer was horrified at the thought of adding a service charge to their payments.  Their whole goal was to accumulate air miles at our expense.  Paying a premium to do so really wasn’t worth their while I guess.  We still receive a check and the terms are still net 30.

Getting caught in an automated system isn’t new.  Using it to be an electronic squeaky wheel is pretty darned novel.  Tossing credit cards and ‘delayed payment’ threats at suppliers is ridiculous.   Do our customers actually think that we are intellectually challenged?  Perhaps they believe that we owe those customers a huge debt of gratitude for actually paying us on time.  Or for giving us the opportunity to do their work.

We are in business for the very same reason that all other businesses are in business.  We all want a place to go that gives us money for things that we want.  Sometimes we are passionate about our products.  Sometimes the job is all we need to be happy.  Sometimes we even enjoy our work. 

I have never, though, heard of a person in any business saying that they are in business for their customers to take advantage.  I have never heard anyone say ‘wow, it’s so great that my customers treat me like crap, demand more than I offer, want to pay less than I charge.’  No one ever said that it makes their day when a customer expects them to grovel and beg for the work.

Conversely, I do occasionally hear the words, “it has been a pleasure to serve you.”  Those priceless words are earned, you know.  They indicate communication, graciousness, an involvement in the work, product and job and a relationship.  The phrase tells the customer that the transaction provided both supplier and buyer with what they wanted and that the supplier appreciates the customer’s attitude, request and ultimate purchase.

While I am a supplier during the course of my business, I also buy things.  When I do, I listen to what is offered, decide whether the offer suits me, purchase, request information and above all, treat the supplier with respect.  After all, it is nothing less than polite.  It is also likely to earn me a smile, better pricing, faster service and a better attitude.  And it is exactly the way I want to be treated. 

I spend a lot of time looking for reasons to tell someone that it has been a pleasure to work for them.   There aren’t a lot of opportunities these days.  There really should be more.