First of all the bad. No names.
The first bad experience
The first was the supplier of some plant to our transfer station. I thought that I had engaged him to give me a turnkey solution that involved a piece of mechanical equipment and some site works. He thought (correctly, as it turns out) that he was only contracted to supply and install the equipment. So I had my first shock. However, he said he could sort out the site works. In fact, he'd prefer to do this himself and would get back to us with a quote.
The next shock came a few days after the install when I was hit with a bill for extra works to install the plant. This was not an insignificant bill. All of it justifiable, but not justified in my view.
The final shock came when I next met with the contractor, expecting a quote and a quick turnaround. Turns out he had thought about it a bit more, and wasn't interested in the site works after all. We learned this after almost two weeks of waiting.
So we are left with some kit on site that we can't use, we've lost a few weeks in the process, and all along the contractor has been in the right, but totally in the wrong. You see, the contractor seems to think I'm after their piece of plant. I'm not. I want the solution the plant offers. I didn't get it.
The second bad experience
My next experience was to do with a conference where I'm presenting. Presenting at a conference requires work. You have to think about what to say, you have to write the paper, you have to prepare your presentation, you have to present. It's several weeks of work.
All of this is a significant investment. All of which is fine in the context of an investment in your industry, an investment in yourself.
The shock was to then learn that I get to pay the full conference registration fee. Presenters, without whom there is no conference, pay the same as the punter sitting up the back passively soaking it up. The punter who pays the fees, turns up in the morning, goes home in the evening and makes no further investment in the conference.
It's not a big deal financially - the fee is not huge. But I'm left feeling that I'm being exploited. I now have no ownership in the deal, I don't care if the conference succeeds or fails. And there is no chance that I'll be investing any more effort in promoting this conference. The conference organisers have made enough money off my work.
The good experience
The nice experience was actually a few weeks ago. It involved The Creative Arts House, a brand creation agency. I turned up to discuss how we might develop a brand around our work, which has been running along for decades in a pretty lacklustre fashion.
The surprise was that Clare and Heather had done their homework. We sat around a table, and they had our corporate documents (all easily found on our website) before them. They then proceeded to tell me what they liked about us, and we could cut straight past the preamble and get into the business.
That is such a small thing, but such an awesome thing. And I am delighted to promote their services as a result.
What is the lesson?
The lesson from this is pretty straightforward. Customer service matters. Even for companies in waste management. It matters for customers of waste management outfits. And customer service is not about selling your service, but about meeting your customer's needs.
It doesn't matter if you have the best product on the market, without meeting your customer's needs, the customer just feels shafted. Especially if you have the best product. Conversely, putting yourself in the customer's shoes increases the chances that you will delight the customer and build immense loyalty.
That must matter.