The Importance of Being a Good Customer

by Sandy L on March 1, 2011

Yesterday was one of those Monday mornings that I could have done without.  My husband flew out of town for work and I ran the kids to school. Work has been incredibly busy and I had a mountain of things to do.  Then at about 10 am, I noticed the heat never came on and it was now 62 in the house.   It wasn’t long before I discovered the reason. We were out of oil, darn.  I call up the oil company and schedule a delivery. The lady on the phone schedules the delivery for the next day.  I then ask if it’s possible to deliver that day because I’m completely out of oil.  She offered no guarantees, but  said she’d call the driver and see if he had enough oil in the truck  to be able to come that day.  I thanked her, turned on my space heater and hoped for the best.

Wouldn’t you know, not 5 minutes later, the oil truck pulls up in my driveway.  I was so glad to see my oil guy.  The driver was a gristly old man with a long beard who looked like he should have been long retired. I conveyed my joy to see him and thanked him for coming.  He gave me a big dentureless smile and the first things out of his mouth were “We like to take care of our good customers.” Now, I don’t know if he was just saying that, but I do know that if I had an outstanding balance with them, not only would they not deliver oil to me, but they would probably wait for the check to clear before okaying the delivery guy. In less than a 1/2 hour after discovering I was out of oil, the heat was on in my house again and all was well in the world.

This made me think how important it is to remember the basics of being a good customer to a local business, be it your dentist, hairdresser, daycare provider, landlord, or any other person you rely on regularly for goods and services.

Here are some reminders of important things that you should do if you want to be a good customer:

  1. Pay your Bills Promptly – Getting paid for the goods or services you receive is a given. This is by far the most important aspect of being a good customer.  We always pay the oil people on the spot with a check that never bounces. There is no credit card transaction fee, no waiting for payment. We are the perfect customer in that regard.
  2. Use the Same Person Loyally – If someone provides good service at a reasonable price, then give them repeat business.
  3. Be nice to the staff – People are more likely to treat you nicely and go the extra mile for you if you are nice to them. It takes just a minute to thank a person and that can go a long way.
  4. Show up on Time and/or Show up Period –  For example, if you blow off your hairdresser at the last minute then he/she loses that spot where they could have earned some money.  Periodic cancellations happen to everyone but don’t be a routine offender.  Your sole actions could be costing a person hundreds of dollars of lost income.  How would you feel if someone was taking money out of your pocket and you were getting nothing in return? Probably not that great.
  5. Word of Mouth Recommendations - Send other customers there and tell them to mention your name.

I can’t stress how important it is to pay your bills. There are so many people who put off the small businesses til last because they know that they have more leeway with payment.  Your dentist won’t send you to a collection agency as fast as someone else will but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a staff to pay and a practice with expensive equipment to maintain.

If you’re having a tough time with finances, then at least try to pay something as a sign of good faith that you do have intentions of paying them back eventually, even if it’s just $5 at a time.

Also remember that businesses are run by everyday people and if you make their lives miserable in one way or another, then they’re less likely to want to go the extra mile for you in return.   This is the second time in a month that being a good customer has led to getting exceptional service and I think it’s something we all need to be more mindful of when we have our day to day transactions with small business people.

For anyone that’s in sales or has a small business of their own, let me know if I missed any big tips.  Thanks for listening.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle March 1, 2011 at 7:42 AM

Great to hear that you were heatless for such a short period of time. Little things go a long way!

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Moneycone March 1, 2011 at 8:12 AM

Be good to good retailers, take your business away from those who don’t deserve your business. I do both.

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Sandy L March 2, 2011 at 5:31 AM

Moneycone – agreed

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Terri March 1, 2011 at 8:47 AM

It sounds like you have a good oil company. We recently ran of oil too and the oil company was going to charge us $125 for an emergency delivery fee (We opted to wait until the next day and put on our long underwear and pulled out a few extra blankets). Even though we waited until the next day, we were charged $45 as a restart fee, since we let our tank run out.

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Sandy L March 2, 2011 at 5:22 AM

Terri – Yeah, some places around here do that too, but usually only if it’s a weekend delivery.

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Everyday Tips March 1, 2011 at 11:51 AM

What a great story. I was afraid you were still going to be without heat today, and then I read how great the service was!

It is so true that customer service can be a two-way street. Quite often we just want companies to handle what we need, when we need it. However, companies have a lot of customers and priorities, and you want to do what you can to be at the top of that list.

Stay warm!

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Sandy L March 2, 2011 at 5:30 AM

Everyday Tips – You’re absolutely right about competing priorities especially in this economy where many layoffs have occurred and a lot of businesses are running short staffed. You want to be the one prioritized to the top of the list and the good news is that you have some control over that by being respectful and nice.

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retirebyforty March 1, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Nice to see the oil company take care of a loyal customer. I try to be nice to all the service people and also pay my bills on time. Especially my dentist! I wouldn’t want to cross him at all.

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Sandy L March 2, 2011 at 5:23 AM

LOL – Yeah, you don’t want to cross your dentist…or your hairdresser or you may end up walking out of there with a mohawk.

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Laura@move to portugal March 1, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Totally agree. Late payments must cause major problems for small business owners.

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc March 1, 2011 at 1:03 PM

I know just want you mean. I love helping small businesses for this reason. I love the quality and the experience. That matters, but like Moneycone, I do not give repeated business to those who are undeserving.

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Sandy L March 2, 2011 at 5:25 AM

I almost put that into my article too, that repeat business is only for the people who earn it. There are quite a few places I won’t step foot into anymore and it’s been years.

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Squirrelers March 1, 2011 at 1:50 PM

When we are long-standing customers, we become important to the business. If they don’t help us when we need help, we might get upset and take our business elsewhere. It’s hard to earn new customers in many businesses, which makes it imperative to keep your existing ones, especially long-time financially solvent customers. It’s a smart business move for them to help you in that way.

Additionally, beyond the reasons I mentioned, let’s face it: relationships matter too. Sometimes people like to help those who they know and like.

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Sandy L March 2, 2011 at 5:26 AM

Squirreler – Why wouldn’t you want to treat your customers with a smile on your face and vice versa? It’s absolutely true that it’s much easier to service those who stay calm and don’t yell.

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101 Centavos March 1, 2011 at 9:18 PM

Very good reminders that being a good customer takes as much or more effort than being a good salesperson. It generates good marketplace karma and builds reputation.

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Sandy L March 2, 2011 at 5:28 AM

101- I don’t think it’s that hard. You just have to remember that those people behind the counter are human beings. It’s easy to just focus on your transaction and forget that there’s an actual person doing the work for you.

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Lisa @ Cents To Save March 2, 2011 at 6:53 AM

A smile goes a long way for both the customer and the business owner. I work directly with the public, and If I give them a big smile, they (most of the time) will smile back and be at ease.

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Molly On Money March 2, 2011 at 7:23 PM

The cheapest thing you can do is be nice. The payoff is typically someone being nice back. Love to love being nice!

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Little House March 3, 2011 at 9:57 AM

You’re so right. My husband runs a small graphic and web design business and the great clients always pay on time, so we always make sure to meet their needs first. The clients who wait and wait to pay, end up not getting the most stellar service and often have to wait behind the clients who pay their bills on time and are kind!

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Crystal March 3, 2011 at 10:13 AM

What great advice! I know a few family members that recently got a late charge on a bill that they were able to get waived simply because it had never happened before. Good companies truly do give little advantages to good customers.

On a slightly different mind path, I have no idea what oil delivery is for (I was picturing a giant kerosene lamp or something, lol), but I assume it runs your heater. It is so odd that we live in the same country and have such different heating delivery systems, lol.

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics March 4, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Great to see the oil company take such good care of you. People generally expect great customer service but fail to reciprocate. Nice reminder for all of us, Sandy! I always get my requests fulfilled whenever I call Tmobile, just because we have been with them for so long. And I stay for their customer service, its a two way street. Just a smile and politeness goes a long way.

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Spruce Up Your Finances March 5, 2011 at 12:21 PM

It’s always nice to be a good customer and to build relationship with the vendor as well. Paying on time, respecting the person on the other side, being nice to staff will always help. For some business owners, having good relationship with the vendors always help when it comes to getting good deliveries, vendor cutting you some slack if you missed a deadline on payment, or even just getting priority on good deals.

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Aloysa March 8, 2011 at 8:43 PM

It is great that some companies appreciate you being a good customer. But then there are those who don’t. I awlays try to be a good customer. I do believe that eventually it pays off. :-) Great post!

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