SMBs

Lo, the gas man cometh

There are times when the cheapest option may not be the best, but how do you justify going for the more expensive option? A recent transaction with a utility provider got me thinking about this equation.

We can always learn from other industries and trades. You can always get ideas from other people, no matter what their path in life.

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It is always a good thing to receive service from other people in a service sector role. Any kind of customer-facing or customer service role will have the same key components at its core: the initial introduction, the establishment of facts, the proposal of a resolution, and the actual performance of the job.

One such occasion happened last week when I waited in the afternoon for a man from the local gas supply company to come round to change my meter. The first gas supplier we tried was cheaper but made it very difficult to get things changed. They did not reply to phone calls or e-mails, so we went with their rivals, who answered the phone right away and confirmed the details of the account by mail the very next day.

Ours is not an easy house to work in. Our street does not have access for cars or vans, so the poor guy had to park some distance away and carry his equipment. It was a very hot day, and the streets were filled with vacationers, our town being a tourist resort.

The ancient architecture makes work a challenge at the best of times, with three-foot thick, solid stone walls, which can make mundane things like drilling a hole for pipes a real challenge, and yet the engineer who came did his work with an efficiency and cheerfulness that proved that our decision to go with the more expensive supplier was a wise one.

This is a lesson that we can all benefit from. It is normal practice for all final decisions related to any kind of expenditure to be taken on the strength of the bottom line, but what the bean counters often overlook is the wide range of nonspecified benefits that some companies can offer, such as a faster response time, positive feedback from real customers, a more in-depth service deal, and even something simple like more cheerful workers! A smile can make a great deal of difference in a stressed situation.

All companies are watching their pennies these days, none more so than the customers I work for. I know my company is not the cheapest, so I always try to make sure that, once they have made the decision to use us, they don't have occasion to regret that choice.

It is a testament to our products and service that whenever a customer leaves us for a cheaper company it is not unusual for them to return to us once they sample the customer service offering of our rivals.

I suppose that what I am trying to say is that not everything can be measured in terms of the bottom line and that the interaction between customer and the service provider is about more than money.

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