Articles: Warning: We Might Not Want Your Business
One of the reasons PowerMax exists is to provide alternatives for obtaining the cool electronics people need and want. By that, I don’t mean so much in the way of alternative products; I mean a different approach, a different way of interacting with customers, and often a different way of marketing that approach.
Part of the reason for this is a simple answer to a simple question: “Who needs more of the same of anything?”
But being different brings it’s own risks. The purpose of this article is to publicly acknowledge those risks, and announce that we don’t mind some of the minor fallout that results in the least.
Sometimes in cultures, ideas take on a life of their own, and they become mainstream thought. That certainly happens in business. Especially in an economic downturn, that thought seems to be to do whatever it takes to keep every customer happy. While Bill Cosby is better known for his humor than his wisdom, his humor often stems from top-notch wisdom, as in the case of this quote: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Where this comes into play for us is when we encounter the rare customer who believes that we should meet every demand, cater to every whim, and if we fail to do that, be berated as anything from incompetent to deceitful. They seem to believe that merchants should grovel at their feet like Gollum in the face of Sauron’s eye. There is a term that came up recently in our local paper, The Oregonian, and I think it will be used more often as it becomes more prevalent: “Consumer Bully.”
This doesn’t mean we can’t take it when we screw up. We’re human, we do that sometimes. And when that happens we’ll take whatever emotion is thrown our way, with profuse apologies, and do our best to make everything right. Heck, consumer bully-ism can happen before we even ship a product. One recent customer sent us 65, count ‘em, 65 emails to finalize a transaction. That’s a whole bunch of demanded attention that could have been given to everyone else. Another customer recently sent us defective Macs through our trade-in process, and then berated us profusely as if we would’ve intentionally made them defective when they got here, threatening all sorts of bad publicity, I guess to try and force us to accept what he surely wouldn’t have accepted from us.
At PowerMax, those behaviors are not successful. In fact, after many rounds of patience and communication, if we’re not able to move that person off the Consumer Bully dime, we’re not afraid to fire that customer. And you know why? Because those people take up an inordinate amount of time… time that is better spent interacting with the vast majority who just want to make a transaction, or appreciate the personal touch PowerMax offers.
Just to be clear, that only happens once in a blue moon. But our feeling is that not only will we go above and beyond as often as possible, when we really enjoy going above and beyond is when the customer is not expecting or demanding it. We much prefer rewarding loyalty and graciousness than kowtowing to unpleasantness.
As a result, I don’t suffer much of that behavior when it’s directed to my employees, because they’re my second family. Any more than I’d allow someone to berate my child mercilessly without intervening, I will intervene if I hear it happening to any of our employees. I can vouch that they are, one and all, extremely nice people. We have a great work environment at PowerMax, and much of that stems from mutual respect for each other as human beings.
The different approach also extends to our marketing messages. We like to have a little fun with them… by being casual and humorous, and, perhaps most importantly, human.
Once in a while we catch flak from someone who thinks we should be more serious, or by my definition, more like everyone else. When engaging in a humorous approach, one can certainly stumble or accidentally offend, and so of course we need to be cognizant of not crossing a line. But one should never mind when a company at least attempts humor, and one should always remember that everyone draws their lines in different places, and respect that fact. Indeed, by very definition humor is subjective. But to me, one of the worst descriptions you could ascribe to anyone’s personality is “humorless.” So to prefer to have companies be humorless is really asking for, well, a lot of blah.
We don’t need everyone to love us, but by golly, we want the ones that do to really love us, and have them look forward to every interaction and every conversation.