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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH

The STORY:

“I think I have it straight,” said Sherman to Harold, his envelope and printing paper supplier.  “If I need pricing, I call this regional office,” he said pointing towards a handwritten phone number on the back of Harold’s card.

“You’ve got it,” said Harold with a very positive tone.

“I don’t call the number I’ve been calling for the past 10 years, right?”

“That’s right.  That office has been consolidated into this one,” he stated pointing to the handwritten number.  He continued, “Also keep in mind that most of the folks in this new office aren’t completely trained, but if you call this number,” he pointed once more towards the handwritten number, “chances are you’ll get one of the previously trained people from the closed office.  But if the phones are busy, your call might roll into the pool where a lesser trained person will answer.”

“But all of them will know what my pricing levels are, right?”

“They should.  The problem is our computer system still hasn’t recovered from consolidating the offices, and some of the lesser trained folks aren’t all that familiar with industry terminology so make sure that you always tell them ‘end-of-book’ pricing.  That should solve any confusion.”

“What’s ‘end-of-book’ pricing?” asked Sherman, shaking his head.

“That’s the terminology for your discount levels, especially on the specialty paper.”

“So on standard paper I’m not getting ‘end-of-book’?”

“Well, you are, but it might not show that way in the computer.”

“Time out, Harold,” said Sherman holding up his hand.  “Let’s say I call this number and get one of your lesseer trained people and tell him end-of-book.  He’ll do the tap-tap on the computer and tell me end-of-book isn’t there.  Where does that leave me?”

“Good point,” responded Harold.  “Tell you what.  Here, let me write down my beeper number on the card.  Now, whenever you need pricing, beep me.  I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.”

The RESULT:

Harold has, unwittingly, raised all sorts of unpleasant questions in Sherman’s mind.

DISCUSSION: 

Did Sherman really have to be subjected to the office problems Harold’s company is having?  Most likely, Harold was told to inform all of his customers about the change in getting pricing information.  As Harold conveyed more and more information, Sherman was getting a bleaker and bleaker picture.

Look at it from Sherman’s point of view.  For the past 10 years, when he needed a price, he called one number and got a price.  As far as he knew, it was the best price.  He could then price the job.

Now, after hearing what he’s heard, when he calls this new number, he might get the correct price, he might not.  In addition, to get the correct price he has to say end-of-book like some magic code phrase.  He’s also learned that the untrained people answering phones don’t understand industry terminology.  Real confidence-building information.  Then, should he not trust the price he gets, and why should he, he should call Harold’s beeper number and wait for Harold to call him back.  Should Sherman wonder what will actually happen when he gets called back?  Will Harold be able to give him a price or will Harold have to call someone else?

Now Sherman sees a company he has been successfully dealing with for 10 years fix something that was not broken and make it difficult to get pricing.  Does Sherman really need to hear about these problems?

Harold should have said, “Sherman, call me at this beeper number when you need pricing.  I want to personally make sure you get the best pricing.”

If he had done that, what do you think Sherman’s point of view would have been?

APPROACH:

If there is a problem, either yours or your company’s that will affect your customer in any way, ask yourself whether your customer even needs to know about it.  Customers never need to know about them!

Should there be a problem that will affect how your customer “puts money in your pocket,” do whatever you have to do to minimize the customer’s inconvenience.

You are not in the presence of your customer to cause him pain.  Your sole function, in his presence, is to take away pain.

THOUGHT:

Don’t involve your customer in your problems and your company’s problems.  Your customer has enough of his own problems.


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