In case you missed it, during this past mid-term election cycle in November, 2018, voters overwhelmingly approved a law that will affect service providers across the country. In a nutshell the new referendum that takes affect at the end of this year gives consumers the ability to terminate or void a service provider’s contract if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly or if they feel that a service provider has failed to live up to its promises.
In short, if a service provider fails to deliver any part of a service that was promised, or even implied, at the time the contract was signed, the consumer has the power to walk away from said agreement without legal obligation to compensate the service provider further. When that happens, the agreement also becomes null and void and the customer will be due a refund in full of money paid, including all retainers. This all means that a service provider can be fired just like any workplace employee with or without just cause but they’ll also be liable for damages caused the customer.
During exit polling, a number of voters said they voted in favor of this new law because they didn’t feel respected as consumers and they were tired of being obligated to contracts that heavily favor service providers.
Many said they felt a disconnect that leads them to believe they are nothing more than a transaction and that their hard-earned money was being wasted on service providers who weren’t living up to their promises or expectations.
It’s important to note that no one is exempt from this new law, regardless of industry. So, how are you as a small business owner going to protect yourself and your business from this new legislation? What steps will you need to take, immediately, to assure that your customers’ wants, needs and expectations are not only being met, but exceeded?
What parts of your business operation, procedures, processes and policies do you need to address today to avoid the possibility that a customer can and will fire you? There’s no doubt that you will have to take a no-nonsense approach to evaluating every phase of your operation since the legalese of contract wording is being replaced with how your business performs and is perceived in the eyes of the consumer.
Remember, it doesn’t matter what you think of the product or service you provide. The customer’s perception of those things is your reality.
Let’s start with the basics. How will you adjust your sales process? Will you become more selective as to the clients you want to work with as opposed to going for a quick & easy paycheck and, perhaps, a miserable outcome? Will you be more cautious as to making promises that you know are outside of your skill set? Will you spend more time asking questions of the customer, so you have a complete understanding of exactly what it is they want before you agree to be of assistance? Are you being totally honest and transparent? Will you focus more on gaining the attention of customers who will allow you to do your best work?
Now, more than ever, it is imperative to be as thorough as possible in interviewing those who are interviewing you.
Think of that process this way. You’ve chosen friends that make you feel good about spending time with them. Your mentors and business associates are people who make you feel secure because you share a mutual trust and respect. You continually do business as a consumer with others who make you feel appreciated with every contact. Without the positive feelings or emotions these interactions create, you’d feel no loyalty to remain in those relationships and move on. Chances are, if you didn’t feel some sort of immediate emotional connection at first contact, you wouldn’t have been in those relationships in the first place.
The customers you work with want to enjoy those same warm, fuzzy feelings with you and your business. Although the qualities of the products and/or services you provide are extremely important, their value takes second place to the emotional connection you make with your customer. That connection can determine the strength and length of their relationship with you and it drives passion, loyalty and advocacy.
In the business world, the emotional connection your clients feel they have with you is directly proportionate to how they feel about the experience of doing business with you—now and in the future.
If you’re not demonstrating love for your customers, don’t expect them to demonstrate love for you.
What about training? Maybe this new law will provide you the motivation to finally get additional training that will help you improve your service or product and make you more expert at the customer care you provide. How sad and embarrassing to be terminated based on ineptitude and lack of talent.
If you have employees, you’ve really got your work cut out for you. With the new law, a simple misstep by a team member or sub-contractor could create the only spark needed for the customer to terminate your services. How are you going to assure that each and every member of your team is not only on board, but up to the challenge?
Now would be a great time to review your company culture. What message does it send to those who represent your business? When your staff feels appreciated and cared for, they are more likely to reciprocate through respect and appreciation of each other. They’ll also convey that same respect, care and appreciation to your customers.
Create an environment that mirrors the culture of your business, so your customers will feel like more than just a transaction.
It’s easy to blame others when things go awry. But in business, the buck must stop somewhere and as a business owner or manager—that buck stops with you.
What about responsiveness? How quickly do you respond to a customer’s text, email or phone call? If it consistently takes you longer than a couple of hours, you may have a problem. We live in a got to have it now universe. Understanding that other business needs may pull you away from your office for long periods of time, it might be wise (and good manners) to let your customers know through an advance email that you are going to be away for awhile and that it may take you a bit longer than usual to respond to their needs and concerns.
What about preparation? Are you currently giving every event and customer the proper amount of time and effort to address every detail? When you walk into your event, have you checked and double checked every possible “what if” scenario to assure that your performance and the client’s event will be as flawless as they expect it to be? What are your backup plans in the event the unexpected rears its ugly head?
These are just a few of the basics you really need to consider to keep you from being summarily terminated under the new law. We haven’t even touched on attitude, appearance and aptitude. But that doesn’t make them any less important and I would encourage you to include them in your overall evaluation because your clients most certainly will—if they’re not already!
Most businesses that focus on delivering “WOW!” customer experiences will have little trouble overcoming the consequences of the new law.
Keep in mind; however, no one gets a free pass. “Adequate” or “average” service delivery will no longer be enough to enjoy long-term “employment.” You’ve got to play harder than ever to win the game of business. Greater attention must be placed on making the customer journey more enjoyable and on what will make the customer happy. If not, you could be subjected to those two dreaded words, “You’re fired!”
If you’ve believed any part of my story, that may indicate a concern about the level of service you provide. Even if you never fell for my story, as we head into a new year, now would be a great time to do an honest, objective business assessment. Better yet, put together a focus group of past customers and let them tell you how they perceive what you do. These are the individuals who will vote in your favor through their referrals.
Until next time I wish you and yours a very happy holiday season and a bright and prosperous New Year!
As always, I invite your questions and feedback in the comments section below..
Ron Ruth | Keynote Speaker, Customer Experience Design Consultant & Coach, Founder of the #Inspiramaginativity Institute.
Contact Ron to speak at your upcoming event or to provide a special, Customer Experience training session for you and your team – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (816) 224-4487.
“Ron is a fun and informative presenter who engages audiences with demonstrations of #Inspiramaginativity—a blending of inspiration, imagination and creativity— and a powerful tool for sparking innovative solutions to the greatest business challenges and for transforming satisfied customers into loyal, raving fans.” – Rick Brewer, WeddingBusinessMarketing.com