Small Business Serves Better

The other day I was driving down a two-lane road and came up behind a garbage truck. It was owned by a national waste and recycling company. The truck looked like it was at the light and had its left blinker on. I sat there waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Then I saw the driver come strolling from the convenient store, get in the truck, pull up to the light, and turn right – not left. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. What was he doing in the lane? Why didn’t he pull over to the side of the street, or into the parking lot? Why did he have his left signal on instead of his hazards?

The driver had no regard for anyone else on the road. It appears his only interest was getting coffee without much effort. The problem? He represents the company he drives for. The way he behaves is a direct reflection on the values and service of the company.

I took down the truck number and called the toll-free number. I felt it was important to let them know how they are being perceived due to that employee’s behavior. My only options through the auto-attendant were ‘customer’ or ‘want to become a customer.’ There was no option for ‘other’ or ‘issues’ so I chose ‘want to become a customer’ thinking that a potential sale would mean a quick response.

Boy, was I wrong. I sat on hold for 25 minutes. Yep, that’s right! 25 minutes. During that time I had the “opportunity” to listen to an on hold message extolling the virtues of communicating with them through their website. This told me that THEIR preferred method of communicating is through email, not voice.

When I finally had the chance to speak with someone she was very helpful and pleasant. However, when I mentioned that the only options on the auto-attendant were customer or wanting to be a customer, she didn’t seem to see the problem.

What did I learn? This company is so big it has lost touch with consumers. They are thinking about what works for them, not what works for customers or potential customers, or people who encounter their employees and trucks. They most likely are making decisions based on cost instead of customer service.

Large companies serve many masters. They have shareholders, or boards of directors. They have senior leadership receiving bonuses for efficiencies and cost reductions. While I’m all for those things, I am not for them at the expense of customer service. In my opinion, outstanding service and attention to others is what makes it possible to not only exist but thrive.

This is where small businesses actually have the edge. Small businesses are usually flatter – less of an organizational structure; less layers of management. Small businesses can easily focus on their clients, and the experiences others have with their companies. They can think about things from their clients’ perspective.


Learn the lesson. Think about how others are experiencing you. What do they want? Expect? Need? Give it to them. Let them know how important they are and how much you value them. You will reap the rewards for years to come. THIS is how you can compete with the big boys. Outmaneuver them when it comes to how you treat others. 

2 comments:

Kip Marlow said...

Diane, you "get it"! Small business probably wouldn't be able to have enough resources to contract with bigger cities, but the small business mentality should permeate every large company.

Diane Helbig said...

So true Kip. I'm not sure small business should want the big clients. They tend to sap resources for very little money. And they have no loyalty. They are always looking for the lowest cost.
However, big biz can learn from small biz - customer service matters.