Of course, you work to make your service so prompt and responsive that there won’t be any customer complaints. If you can manage that, congratulations.
But if you’re like the rest of us, sooner or later your business will do something a customer doesn’t like. The problem is, she may or may not tell you she’s unhappy, and if she doesn’t, you may lose her as a customer before you’ve had an opportunity to repair the damage. It happens frequently: the customer quietly frets and stews about what she sees as your failures, until she finally decides she’s had enough, and says goodbye.
You probably won’t be able to get her back. Not only that, if you never learn why she left, you may not be aware that there is a problem with your service, and you’ll have the same problem with other customers. So it’s important to learn about complaints before they get serious.
Encourage your reticent customer to speak up with her honest evaluation of your relationship with her. “Ms. Carson, I want to make sure we’re doing a good job for you. Please tell me — how are we doing?” And if she reveals that indeed there is a problem, ask her, “How can we fix it?”
You have a good chance save the relationship by doing what’s necessary to solve the problem. And even if the situation is beyond repair, you’ll identify the hitch in your service that may be bothering other customers, too. Whenever you do lose a customer, you should find out why.
It’s not unusual for a small business entrepreneur to settle into a nice, warm, comfortable rut after a few years. He’s been through the tough start-up period, and now it’s clear that his business really does sustain itself. Unless something drastic happens, he can continue his business just as it is now, happy with what he does, and making a nice living. It’s what he considers success to be, and what he wanted from the beginning. Why consider growing the business, taking it to the next level? It’ll just be more work, and more risk.
That’s fine. Who are we to set objectives for others?
But what he’ll never know is the process of making the business bigger, the fun and challenges of becoming a major player in his chosen field, breaking out of his routine, seeking out the right people to help him grow, and ultimately earning the stature — and the money — of a big-time guy.
The entrepreneur who has his eye on the big time has broad horizons. He may not reach all his objectives, but his success comes from the big-league ambitions that keep him growing.
The guy who’s satisfied playing in the minor leagues is not going to emerge as a mover and shaker. It’s something he hasn’t set his heart on.
That’s perfectly all right.
But at some point you’ll have to decide: what does success mean to you?
If you’re like many other small business entrepreneurs, you pay yourself as the money comes in. Good month, pay yourself more. Bad month, pay yourself less. In general, this is a mistake. It’s easy to tell yourself you’re justified in pulling extra funds out of the business: There are extra profit bucks in the business bank account — you’ve worked hard and you deserve it — your family should have something extra — whatever. But depleting your account can be dangerous. If there’s a bad month, or maybe a costly problem, you need enough cash to fix the problem and move ahead. You have to put away enough for a rainy day, and you can’t do that if you spend whatever comes in. The solution: Decide on a salary for yourself that’s right for you and for your business, and then stick to that salary. When it’s clear your business is doing better on a consistent basis, then you can give yourself a raise.