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How not to do business

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I went looking for re-upholstery services. My requirements were for a child's 70's "antique" egg chair to be re-upholstered/renovated. I wanted to use a local firm, as I will have to transport the chair to them and don't want to travel to far.

Also I didn't want to schlep around getting quotes; thought it much easier to take some pics, email to the local companies and get estimates. The three most promising I would visit, then decide. So far so easy.

So I went to the upholsterers' association website and contacted the two nearest me.

1st company: I spoke to the wife who put me onto her husband, who didn't understand what I was saying; he had no point of reference for the chair. So I said I'd email over some pics. He wasn't sure if they had email. His wife (in the background) confirmed they did and proceeded to tell him the address, which he relayed to me, until he got to the @ symbol, which was too much for him to cope with. "I'm not compatible with computers" says he, and I get passed to his wife, with a "bloody computers". His wife then painfully went through the whole process again (arghhhh). After she gave me the email address she said that she wasn't sure if they would be able to look at the pictures, as they were not sure how to operate the computer!

2nd Company: Phone rang, and rang, and rang, was picked up (I heard voices!) and then I was switched to answerphone.

3rd Company: I explained the job; she would love to do the work. Great. Can I send pictures? Yes! Even better. What's your email address? Oh, I don't have one. WHAT!!! No, we have just moved so I have yet to get my email address changed!!!! I nearly fell off my chair. She asked me to print them out and send them. I refused; if they are not going to get modern then they lose out. I am not going to step backwards, sorry, get modernised (this is the 21st Century not the 1st!) or get out of business. They also did not do site visits. So it was take the chair to them or not. I chose not.

I switched my search to Yell.

4th Company: No answer; phone just rang and rang.

5th Company: No answer, went to answerphone eventually. I am not leaving my number, I want to send an email not have someone phone me back to tell me they can't see emails...

6th Company: Would love to help but are fully booked with work this year, can I call back next January. I kid you not. I know that upholstery is a more traditional skill/craft but this is 21st Century Britain, not 1st Century Albania. She did give me the name of another company so I called them.

7th Company: ME: "Hi, do you take emails?" HIM: "Yes." ME: "Great, what's your email address?" HIM: "I don't know. And I am going away next week so won't be able to look at anything for three weeks", and they don't do site visits. My mind boggled and I just gave in and hung up.

8th Company: ME: "Do you own a computer?" HIM: "err... Yes?" ME: "Do you have email?" HIM: "Yes?" ME: "HALLELUJAH!!!!" But it turns out they don't deal with modern furniture, I tried to tell him it was over 30 years old, and that apparently is modern.

9th Company: I asked if they did upholstery? Did they do modern stuff? Yes and yes were the replies. Cool so I launched into my explanation, only to be told could I call back or could they take a message as "It's my wife who deals with this". ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I then went over to Google local search.

10th Company: Managed to speak to the upholsterer; they took email and they were interested in helping. Wow, 10% hit rate, not bad.

11th Company: With a website and everything.

12th Company: Again, online, emailed up, and modern furniture. I didn't even bother phoning them, just sent my piccys.

OK, lets see how these last three deal with my enquiry.

So here's how NOT to do business:

  • Advertise your service.
  • Refuse to go see a customer.
  • Not have a computer or connect to the net or modernise your business.
  • Stonewall the customer.
  • Refuse to deal with customer questions.
  • Have a phone and not answer it.
  • Have someone answer your phone but not say the company name (I really hate that. It really, really annoys me to have to ask, "is that So & So Ltd?"
  • Be ambivalent to the customers requests.
  • See customers' problems as an intrusion on your busy day.
  • Offer your problems to the customer by way of explanation as to why you can't help the customer, instead of just seeing what you can do by thinking laterally (maybe visit when passing, maybe get them to text the photos, maybe get a neighbouring business to receive the emails? Maybe just get on the damn internet!).
  • Give one word answers, maybe, no, hmmm, sorry.
  • Not have total mastery of your company's contact details. You should be able to recite the company name, address and tel no., any relevant mobile no., the main email address, your email address, the web address. If you cannot remember these details PRINT THEM OUT AND HAVE THEM IN FRONT OF THE TELEPHONE OR ON A CARD IN YOUR WALLET! This applies to ALL staff who pick up the phone, it is unprofessional to not give these details when asked by a customer.

All in all better communications is the key to good business, making life easier for your customers should be your #1 priority. Too many businesses seem to be run by people for their own convenience.

Wise up: people love to put money into your bank account if you make it easy enough for them, Remember that.

Stuart Morris

Complete Little Britain Tribute Act for a great evening's entertainment http://www.littlerbritain.com/