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When Businesses Fail to Behave

Dumb things businesses do to their customers.

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Upset business person
Image: Icons8 from Unsplash

There once was a time when conducting business was a pleasant experience. Sometimes, buying a product or service still is enjoyable. I’ll purchase something and feel good about it, knowing I spent wisely and invested my money toward a company that sees value in building quality relationships and service.

As a business owner, I understand that giving my clients quality service and treating them well helps me be better, and my referral rates go up. Good things happen when a business employs a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) process. As a leadership and success coach, I help them be better.

In recent years, I’ve experienced negative behaviors by customer service staff and sometimes business owners that leave me flabbergasted. This article shares true-life stories of some of those awful cases.


The Handyman Company

I live in a split-level home with an upstairs, downstairs and basement area. Shortly after moving here, I noticed the soffit area drooping near the roof. I could see the job would only require a couple screws to pull it back in place.

Photo: Helena Cuerva from Pixabay

I didn’t have a ladder big enough for the job and didn’t want to climb up there. Being new to the area and wanting to start some home projects, I decided to call a local service for this minor job to see how they do. If it went well, I’d call them back for the larger jobs.

The guy showed up and looked at the job.

He said, “This will be an all-day job. We need to set up scaffolding, we need two people and then we have to pull all the siding off the front of your house to get to the soffit. It will cost $980.00.”

Are you kidding me? $980.00 to put two screws in place?

I told him to leave and to never return. I bought the longer ladder, put in the two screws and fixed it.

The company later changed their business name.


The Window Replacement Job

One of the many jobs on my list was to replace all the windows with an energy efficient alternative. I found a company with a quality product and they bid a good price. Rather than give them all the work at once, I contracted for six windows for installation before Thanksgiving.

Photo: Anthony M. Davis

As the holiday was drawing near, they kept pushing back the date. They finally set an installation date six-weeks late and on the day of the job, they broke one window during transit to our house. I wasn’t too happy but by then, I just wanted them installed and to have good windows. It took a few more weeks to get the last window installed.

The owner of the company arrived to inspect the job when I talked with him. I reminded him of the agreed upon installation date.

I then told him, “I’m happy with the windows I received. Yet, I have eleven more windows to do. To get the rest of my business, I need to know I can count on your company.”

This is when he told me, “If you need to count on me, you can take your eleven windows and go somewhere else.”

Really? I’m sure this is not a smart way to develop referring customers.

I ordered my last 11 windows through another company, plus the new company got additional work from me.

The first company with the attitude went out of business a couple years later.


The Fitness Store

When we first moved here after leaving the San Francisco Bay Area, we hadn’t settled on a gym so we discussed getting some small equipment for around the house. Around that time, we got a flyer in the mail from a local fitness store for a free exercise ball.

Photo: Bruno from Pixabay

My wife and I arrived at the store and in the back were two guys in their 20s talking. As we walked further into the store to speak with them, one saw us and loudly said, “DAMN!!! a customer.”

Now… THAT was awkward.

While we intended to look at their equipment, we took the free ball and left.

That store went out of business shortly afterward.


The Ice Cream

It’s not uncommon to lose power around here. It happened one hot Summer day. I suggested to my wife we get out of the sweltering house and get an ice cream from a local fast food place. Given the heat, something cool would have been nice.

There were only a few people there, mostly seated. One older gentleman was trying to get his drink that didn’t come with his meal.
Once he received his drink, we stood at the counter to place an order.

There was no one at the register. A female employee was standing nearby. She saw us waiting, and she walked away.


Then the manager, a female with a headset on walked up to the counter, stood right in front of me. She didn’t address me. In fact, she didn’t even look at me. Yet, she was 3 feet in front of me at the counter.

She looked right THROUGH me as she said something about the total, then said,“Drive to the next window”

Then she walked off. It was apparent that she was talking to a drive-through customer and NOT paying attention to the customer standing right in front of her.

By this time we stood there about four-minutes. As another minute passed, I was getting frustrated. The manager once again walked up to the counter RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME and once again looked through me.

I said, “Excuse me… Am I invisible?”

She didn’t respond to me. She just said, “Your total is… drive to the next window”and walked off without taking our order. My wife said, “Let’s go somewhere else.”

It was hot, and we were without power at home. I wasn’t about to leave without that ice cream. A woman in her 20s that appeared miffed with us for wanting to be served, finally took our order. We ate our ice cream and left.

On a positive side, the ice cream was good, and we had power when we returned home.

I’ve not returned to this well-known franchise since.


The Sub Shop

I went into a local sub shop to order some takeout for my wife and me. The food is always good and the service is non-eventful. It’s always a quick stop and a good sandwich. For this stop, I walked in, and said, “I’d like a number 14 WITH CHEESE, and a chocolate chip cookie.”

The guy behind the counter then said, “Do you want cheese with that?”

“Yes” I said.

He then asked, “Do you want a cookie or something with that?”

“Yes” I then repeated what I just told him.

I’ve noticed many times when I have to repeat what I say at local businesses because people don’t listen. This sub sandwich is the basis for this article.

The stories above describe cases of employees who couldn’t care less about the company reputation or their customers. They work harder to chase people away rather than do their job, show their customers have value, or even pretend to listen to them.

I would hate to be a franchise owner when employees have no concern about keeping the business profitable. If they screw things up and the place goes out of business, they walk off to screw up another business.


I see this stuff in my Coaching Practice

If business owners wish to stay in operation over the long haul, they need to recruit wisely and invest and train employees how to be successful. As a leadership and success coach, I help business owners find those things that are not working so we can create a plan of action to make it right.

In the case of the owner of the window company, he hung onto his ego, rather than acknowledge there were issues, or consider how a customer views the service. He’s out of business now, not because of me. He likely hung onto the “My way or the highway” approach while customers were going elsewhere.

I don’t work with every client that comes my way. If they are unteachable, then they are on their own. Many of the issues highlighted in this article occur every day in some form within American businesses.

If business leaders are willing to look at their organization closely and take positive action, then I can help them create the best CRM for business development. Many organizations don’t fully understand the inner dynamics that are costing them millions.

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