We are our own competition

No doubt you are familiar with Pogo’s famous quote: “I have seen the enemy, and he is us!” The reason that quote has remained so endearingly popular with us is, unconsciously, we know it is true.

And note, I’ve emphasized the word, unconsciously. Because, on the other hand, consciously, we try to convince ourselves it’s not our fault that something didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen: our excuses are, there’s too much competition; people are always undercut my prices; my employees don’t have to work more than eight hours a day, so why should I have to? The list of excuses goes on and on. I’ll give you a real-life example of what I mean by our own attitude and lack of thinking that causes us to fail so often.

I’m retired now, but I was in the sign painting and promotion business in my younger years. One day a fellow came and wanted me to make up some promotional flyers advertising his new start-up business: postal home delivery. Since we don’t have mail home delivery in our town: only post-office boxes, on the surface, this seemed like a good opportunity to fill a service need that was not available in our town before his arrival.

I asked him, since this was a new business venture in town, if he had done a survey to see if people wanted postal home delivery. He never did answer me directly, but assured me, that, being a retired postal worker himself, home delivery in a town that didn’t have home delivery, was a good idea.

Long story short, his business was a total disaster that never lasted out the year. In an angry huff, he and his wife packed up and left town. In a parting editorial letter to our local paper, he bitterly complained that the townspeople were too backwards to appreciate the service—home postal delivery—that he was willing to supply.

I can’t speak for other towns, but for us, we don’t need—nor want home delivery. For us, the post office acts as a community gathering place. It gives us a chance to briefly meet and chat with someone who lives on the other end of town and get up to date on what’s happened in his life since the last meeting.

In other words, our post office acts as a mini social gathering place: an excuse for going to the post office to pick up our mail that doubles as an opportunity to socialize. For that reason, most of us don’t want home delivery!

So, where to put the blame for his business failure: on the town for not wanting his ‘modernized opportunity services’, or should he blame himself for not doing proper research before investing his time and money in a no-win idea?

The same ‘blame-game’ idea can be applied to many of our social involvements. One of my present-day pet blame-game topics is our personal health and our present concern over the dangers of the COVID-19 virus. How many of you think the virus is to blame for a person getting sick from it, or even dying? Come on, now, don’t be shy. Raise your hands!

If the virus is to blame, why aren’t all of us sick? The fears also are that it is more dangerous to the elderly. If it is, then why aren’t all elderly sick or dying from the virus than there are at present? Could it be that the virus is more able to attack a person who has a low immune system, regardless if they are child, adult or senior? Therefore, the virus skips me, because I’m healthy, but ‘hits’ my neighbor who is careless in his health habits.

So, in reality, for the majority of us it’s our own lack of personal health care, not the virus that’s to blame for us getting sick.

A practical saying that I’ve always found helpful when I get into the ‘accusing syndrome’ game is: “For every finger that you point at someone else, remember, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”

We could save ourselves a lot of disappointment if we would search ourselves first before looking at our envireonment for failed solutions and/or causes.

How to Loose Customers — Fast!

How many businesses do you know have “Quality Service” as their slogan? Now, how many business, from your experience by using their services, do you think really mean it?

Our family isn’t known for it’s love of eating out. My wife’s a good cook so we save a lot of  money by dining at home.  However, about once a week we do love to shop and visit in Lethbridge, a small city near us. If it’s approaching noon and we need a quick lunch we often dine at Subway. There are three Subway Restaurants in the area of Lethbridge that we frequent–well, two actually, now that we’ve eliminated one from our favorites list. Why the elimination? Because of stingy customer service.

Because I’m a vegetarian, my favorite choice is Subway’s veggie salad. I don’t care for lettuce, so I ask  the server to omit the lettuce and, would he mind adding a bit more baby spinach instead. I love the stuff! At the other two Subway Restaurants that we frequent in Lethbridge, the servers won’t  hesitate to load, usually twice as much spinach on my plate to compensate for the ‘no lettuce’ deal–but not this one guy! No sir! Not only won’t he increase the spinach on my plate, he’s even skimpy on everything else that I choose from his selection to make up a veggie plate.

Did I complain about my dissatisfaction with his attitude? No. The cost is only a few dollars and I just didn’t think enough of the guy’s business to feel he was worth my time to complain. With so many other Subway franchises near by that offer premium service, I just made it a point not to frequent his establishment again. So, who’s the looser in this situation?

I ran my own small, three-person service orientated business for over thirty years before retiring. I learned very early in my business years that honest, top quality, professional service must be a priority if I wanted to survive and remain competitive. Furthermore, I made it a point to  never wait for a customer to first complain before taking corrective action, and that habit paid off handsomely because, with few exceptions (mostly situations that were beyond my control),  my customers remained with me until I finally had to close shop because of my retirement. I’m proud of that record!

If you plan on staying in business, customer feedback is just as important to you staying in business as quality of service and dependability are.  Have you ever taken a close look at the top portion of a Walmart customer sales slip? Read it and you will see why Walmart is a success. It’s obvious that good service is a priority with them because the slip asks, “We want to know how we ‘re doing!” They even offer monetary incentives to entice you to respond. You can tell, they’re serious: they want to ensure that, if you shop in their stores,  you are getting the absolute best service for your money that they can possibly give you.

A final bit of advice: don’t wait for your customers to complain before responding, because, unless you’re selling big ticket items where there’s a lot of money involved and it’s worth a customer’s time to complain if unfairly dealt with, such dissatisfied customers will just leave your establishment and you’ll never see them again!  You loose. Big time!

Be creative in thinking up ways to receive feedback on how you’re relating to your customers. One policy that I ran with for several years was to remember my customer’s birthday and anniversary, usually with a card and/or a small gift. It didn’t cost me much to implement this policy, but it was sure appreciated. As a result, because I had laid the groundwork for  mutual value and respect for each other, if a complaint did arise, even if it was only a small, seemingly insignificant problem, my customers thought enough of me to come forward and talk to me. We became friends! I had developed the true meaning of the word, “Customer Loyalty”.

Creativity is the foundation for the mother-of-invention saying … and an assured road to success.