Category Archives: customer service

Believing in Your Fee

Great story I’d heard before, but was reminded of while reading The Simple Dollar, a new blog I discovered recently:

A French woman, upon seeing Picasso in a Parisian restaurant, approached the great master and insisted that he put down his coffee and make a quick sketch of her. Graciously, Picasso obliged. When he was done, she took the drawing, put it in her handbag, and then pulled out her billfold.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked.

“$5,000,” was Picasso’s reply.

“$5,000? But it took you only three minutes!” she exclaimed.

“No,” Picasso answered. “It took me all my life.”

Picasso was always good for a quote that carried some impact, wasn’t he?

People with talent didn’t just come out of the box that way. Just because something appears easy doesn’t mean it is, or that the journey was. It takes years of education, years of practice, years of prior failure.

Pricing my services is probably my biggest ongoing challenge as a small business owner. In advertising production, many clients only have the perspective of seeing the finished 30-second TV spot, or hearing the 60-second radio commercial.  Far less often do they see the hours spent drawing animation artwork, editing and enhancing audio or video, searching for the right read, the right voice, the right take, and writing and rewriting copy to ensure that their advertising message is unique and salient and remarkable. That stuff not only takes time to execute, but it also takes time to learn to do, and get good at. And that’s what your clients are paying a premium for.

Very often prospective clients hesitate, hem, and haw when they inquire about my rates for voiceover, production, animation, etc., because to them it “seems expensive for just a 30-second TV spot.” All the more often, I find myself turning away business when that happens, rather than trying to justify my fee. As much as I hate to pass up work, I know that a client who dithers on price right out of the gate doesn’t value my time. And the client who doesn’t value my time ends up being the one who demands the most of it, usually amidst a constant debate as to why they shouldn’t have to pay me for it. I find that time is much better spent honing my skills, networking, and building my business in an effort to find better-quality clients who enjoy being involved in the creative process, and who appreciate what goes into it.

Don’t devalue yourself, your work, or your time just because others might not see the value in it.

Good luck!

Reward Loyalty

Whose happiness is more important to the success of your business — that of your future customers, or that of your longtime customers?

I let my cable/internet/phone provider have it yesterday, because I found out that new customers are able to purchase their services for a lower “introductory” price than I, who have been a customer of theirs for nearly a decade.

I knew there wasn’t much I’d be able to do.  I have no intention of switching services, and the customer service rep did everything she was allowed to do to get my bill as low as possible.  But I still asked to speak to a supervisor, because if it were my business, I’d want to know if a ten-year customer wasn’t happy.

I first explained what a pleasant experience I’d had with the customer service rep who transferred me (true).  Then I told him about how happy I’ve been with their product over the years (also true), and how often we recommend their services to others (also true).  And when I (courteously) expressed my displeasure with the notion that someone who isn’t even a current customer has access to a better rate than me… you know what happened?

He apologized me off the phone.  I didn’t get my bill lowered, I wasn’t satisfied, and I still have great services at a price I feel is a bit too high.  Overall, not much has changed.  Although things between us won’t quite be the same, and I’ll probably recommend their services a little less enthusiastically now.  But more importantly, I spoke up.  And I’ll probably still follow up via e-mail to their corporate office.  Because as I mentioned, if it were my business, I’d want to know.

Best of all, the experience has reminded me to first make sure my current customers are happy, before I worry about pleasing strangers.

Two Guys Walk Into A Bar

And they’re each trying to meet women.  So the first guy walks up to a cute blonde who’s sitting there, sipping a Cosmo, minding her own business.  And he starts yelling at her – literally screaming, loud enough for everyone in the place to hear:

“Hey!  I’m a lawyer!  I make 200 Grand a year!  I drive a Porsche!  I have a summer cottage on the Cape!  This watch?  I got it when I made partner!  You should go home with ME because NOBODY in this place is better than ME!”

And, predictably, the cute blonde is unimpressed, annoyed, very turned-off, and completely ignoring him.

So the second guy sees what’s goin’ on, and after a couple minutes, he goes up to the cute blonde at the bar and asks her all about herself.  He asks her what she does for a living, where she’s from, what she likes to do for fun, what kind of movies she likes…

And she’s totally into this second guy, because he’s genuine, he’s sincere, and he’s really interested in HER, and not trying to tell everyone in the bar all about himself.  She ends up getting together with the second guy, and to this day, they’re still together, because the second guy understands that — no matter whether you’re trying to meet someone in a singles bar, or, say, maybe, you’re a business owner trying to obtain new customers with an advertising message — when you’re trying to persuade someone, you have to talk about THEM, not about YOU.

Does your advertising message talk about you?  Or does it talk about the customer with whom you’d like to begin a long-term relationship?

Cable TV and the Economic Stimulus

Every so often on cable TV, I see promotions offering incentives to new cable subscribers: “Sign up now, and get the first 3 months FREE!” or some similar reward to prospective customers.

I’ve been a loyal cable subscriber for the past 8 years.  I’ve paid my bill every month, and use my cable company for not only TV, but also internet and telephone service.  I think that’s worthy of some sort of reward or sign of appreciation, don’t you?  Certainly more worthy than someone who’s not even a customer yet.

So, one time, after seeing one of these offers on TV, I called the cable guys and asked ’em, essentially, “What about me, your long-time, loyal customer?  Aren’t I deserving of a similar spiff?”  The good news:  They were kind enough to extend the same offer to me.  The bad news:  I had to ask.

Similarly, when I found out about the recent housing stimulus President Obama proposed in Mesa, Arizona last week, I was prompted to write another “What about me” letter — this time to Maine Senator Susan Collins:

Dear Senator Collins:

As I watch President Obama speak in Mesa, Arizona today regarding the economic stimulus plan and the effort to slow the mortgage foreclosure rate in the U.S., what I’m seeing raises a few concerns: President Obama discussed relief for those home buyers who were permitted, and in some cases, encouraged to “overborrow,” and are now “upside down” in their mortgages, as well as extending incentives to lenders like Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac to help lenders refinance and lower their monthly payments on said loans.

My question to you regarding this matter: Could you please provide a list of government-subsidized incentives, rewards, and/or programs which are available to Americans like myself, a small-business owner who have spent my entire adult life living and borrowing within my means, working to maintain impeccable credit, and always striving to make payments on time, provide for myself and my family, and generally “playing by the rules?”

I’m very interested in learning more about how President Obama’s economic stimulus plan will address the concerns of citizens like myself who don’t need or want a government “bailout,” and who feel that WE are the ones who should be rewarded for our fiscally responsible behavior. Instead, as I see it, we seem to be the ones who will end up paying the most for these mistakes, and the extremely expensive measures which President Obama is taking to remedy them.

Respectfully,

Brett Slater

It’s only been a week, but as yet, I have not received a response.  I know Senator Collins’ office is good about getting back to those who write, but I’m not expecting the same satisfaction I got from the cable company.

New business is important, obviously.  But in that quest for new customers, don’t take for granted those long-term clients who’ve stuck with you, paid their bills on time,  and continued to do business with you “the right way,” during good times and/or bad.  And (Mr. President) don’t ask your good customers to make up for the shortfalls of your bad ones.

At any rate, to MY customers, thank you.  I sincerely appreciate your continued business.  I’ll knock myself out to make sure you’re ALWAYS taken care of.  And I’ll never ask you to pay extra to cover for my or anyone else’s mistakes.  I value your business far too much.

“The New Phone Book’s Here!!”

The new phone book arrived this week…

We keep it at the bottom of a large, heavy-duty, black contractor bag with all the other stuff we no longer need or use. Where do you keep yours?