We distributors could write a book

Aug. 24, 2009
Write a book about customer excuses

OK, you’ve had plenty of time to figure this out, so the question is: Have you finally decided on the title for your book?

You know what I’m talking about … on at least one occasion each of us has scratched our head and thought that with everything we have witnessed over the years of servicing customers, we could fill pages.

More than just one book, it could easily be a best-selling series along the lines of “The honest times,” “The dishonest times,” “The humorous times,” “The upsetting times,” etc., and don’t forget what would be the all-time best seller, “Excuses — just when you thought you’d heard them all.”

Now it would be impossible to recall every unique situation, but there are those moments, and excuses, that would help push any of the books to the best-seller list — you already have some of your own running through your mind.

Over the past several months, excuses seem to be on the rise (one thing that is recession-proof!) How we handle excuses directly relates to our livelihood.

One of my more memorable excuses, was when one customer informed me, while wiping grease off his wrench, that his weekly payment wasn’t available because, “I just finished paying off my girlfriend’s implants.” I have to admit this was original and there was a slight pause for it to register before my reply! (After a hearty chuckle, we discussed his double payment due the following week.)

No matter how entertaining the excuse may be, they are still excuses.

You may not realize as time passes, but it is the excuses heard most often that unfortunately start to affect our focus. They become a steady drip of water that starts as an annoyance, but over time is no longer heard … even though it still makes noise. It can be months or years later when problems are discovered that started from that steady drip.

When a customer explains that his world is spinning out of control and you will have to wait, what is your first response?

What about when a customer says he forgot that it was your day to show up — do they automatically double their payment the following week or do you have to remind them?

We all seem to have some customers with the odd conception that tool trucks run on their own — that they produce products under the cover of darkness at little or no cost, and that every one of us chose to do this out of boredom from being independently wealthy. Not being smart here, but what is the perception of you and your business if customers think it is acceptable to put off or cut back on their obligation with the very people that service the items by which they make a living?

Speaking of obligation, do you feel that honesty is part of its makeup? Honesty is most certainly expected from anyone in the sales world. I feel most sales professionals would agree honesty is an essential part of making obligations, for both sides. Each one of us decides on how to fulfill our part of the obligation — of that we are in complete control. I am not certain that excuses will ever become a thing of the past, but we can look more closely into controlling the drip.

We are all human … we forget … we make mistakes … stuff happens. So let’s just call it like it is: Enduring excuse after excuse starts to take its toll, like that drip, and has to be addressed.

When a customer explains that “His dog just got …,” or “Man, you’re not going to believe what happened to me …,” do you stand there and listen wishing someone would call your cellphone, or another tech will yell out for your attention? That’s a good sign that you have become an excuse cushion. You want to be the bigger person, so nothing is said, and you already know the ending: You’re either receiving a partial payment or none at all!

I’ve decided to control the drip on my route.

I stop the customer with a “Things happen, I understand that,” and advise that if they make good on their obligation with me the next week there is no problem. By doing so, I save time in my day (life), put the pressure on them to make good on their word (fulfill obligation) and make it known that I am there to provide the best I can — and I expect the same.

Joe Poulin is a mobile tool distributor based in Gray, Maine, for Mac Tools. Send any comments or feedback you have for Joe by e-mail to [email protected].

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