When you’re first starting out in business and you’re tiny, it’s very important to make your business appear like it’s big and successful. However, the problem reverses when you hit it big. Customers don’t like when you seem so big that you don’t care about them. Here’s how to deal with that.
You’re small, but you want to look BIG:
It’s the little things
Do the little things at a high level. Always answer your phone and have a professional voicemail. It’s critical that customers get a human on the phone immediately when they call.
Stay true to your word
Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. When you’re self-employed, sometimes the freedom can become a curse. Hold yourself at a higher accountability. Be on time. 10 minutes early is on time.
Use high-end copy literature and hire a graphic artist to build company branding. It’s critical. There’s a huge difference between some junky Microsoft clip art logo as opposed to what a professional graphic artist can do. With technology, you can hire a graphic artist for next to nothing. Fiverr.com can help you find short term hires. Design Crowd allows you get dozens of designs and you only pay for the one you end up using. There’s no excuse to have ugly branding or cheap business card stock, including brochures.
Uniform, uniform, uniform
Always be in uniform. You should wear work shoes, work pants, shorts, hat, and name tag. You can find a place online where you can buy name tags for $5-10. It’s all about how customers perceive you. People don’t have to know how small you are. The goal is to have them think you’re successful and busy. People will pay much higher prices when they perceive you to be very competent and successful. If they think you’re just some guy, they’re going to expect, and rightfully so, a much lower price for your services. Don’t let that happen.
You’re BIG but you want to look small
Give workers the ability to make decisions
Make sure you position the people who deal with customers directly with permission to make decisions. They cannot just be order-takers. I always tell my guys ‘I did not hire you for your back. I hired you for your back and your brains.’ They need to be friendly and down to earth without a boss breathing down their neck. Let them spend extra time listening to customers talk about their grand-kids and pet cat. It should be a requirement that your workers know the name of their customer’s pet cat.
Give your managers authority
Give office managers, and anyone that deals with angry customers, the ability to deal with situations autonomously. There’s no reason every situation should go up in the chain of command. When there’s an angry customer, the first person they call to complain should be able to deal with the situation. They need the authority to make decisions and solve problems. Everyone hates that corporate feeling of being put on hold, and transferred to six different people who each say “that’s someone else’s problem.”
The way that you position your brand and literature is crucial. We mention to our customers that as a small family company, we rely on referrals from great people like them. Every single time they deal with us, they hear that. In our customer life cycle document , in the thank you card, the first time they call us, when they get an estimate, and with the follow-up call, they hear “as a small family company…”. I once had a friend who had a two-man business and his work truck said “truck number 6.” That’s a great idea when you’re small, but not a good idea when you’re big.
It’s all about appearing successful when you’re small, but keeping that personal touch when you make it big.
Take care and may God bless the work of your hands.