Firstly Some We Are…..

The truth is that we are allowed to talk about that employee, who is late everyday and as such makes her whole team late, costs the business, not only the thirty minutes that they weren’t there but also that same time multiplied by the guys waiting to start. Add on the time that it takes for each team member to grumble, chastise and shake off the mood so that they can get up to normal speed and you have an hour per…..

The Truths That We're Not Supposed To Say....

We are, as business owners, in polite, normal society, allowed to speak this truth.

The truth is that we are allowed to talk about that employee, who is always late, doesn’t get the order correct or delivers damaged good and costs the business time as well as money, usually far more than the profit made on the materials when sold on. We are allowed to sing from the hills and let everyone know just how terrible their service was, just how poorly we were treated and how nobody should ever use that supplier ever again…!

What we shouldn’t say…..

What we are not allowed to say, at least out loud, is that a huge amount of customers are awful….. There, I said it. Totally true!

The Truth – The Truth – The Truth – The Truth – The Truth – The Truth – The Truth – The Truth – The Truth – The Truth

It is difficult to get solid numbers for recent years on just how much is owed in total to small businesses through unpaid invoices, but one estimate from last year set that number to $1.8T.

Excuse me, are you mad!?!

Are You Mad? Hindsight Blog Photo
Some might assume

Yes I said, 1.8 trillion dollars. Or just over $120,000.00 per small business in the U.S.A. on average. This is up from the estimated $825B in 2016 and an average of $84,000.00 per small business.

Is it any wonder that so many businesses go under? That so much potential is quashed and goes unseen? Is it any wonder that companies cannot afford the pay rise that their employees so fully deserve? Not to mention the suicide rate of small business owners over the last decade.

And there’s more….

Have you tried to add up the loss of time, money and resources devoted to creating a safe, inclusive and inspiring working environment only to have a customer belittle your staff because their call was not picked up quickly enough and then continue to make their lives a misery with every forced interaction until they are quite sure that everyone knows that, they, are in charge?

What about the costs that are incurred when you have arrived at a customers property, only to find that they are not there, or better still, are there, but are clearly doing the work themselves and want you to tell them how to do it, and what materials they should use so that they can pass code requirements?

……. Or the total cost of the quotations that you have spent days or weeks pawing over, researching, preparing and making sure they are exactly in line with requirements only to have them ignored in favour of something that look as if its been scribbled on the back of a poster, torn from the wall of a biker bar bathroom and dropped under the urinals for a week, simply because its cheep.

I could go on, but let’s get back to the massive amounts of money that simple aren’t paid.

You have undoubtedly seen all of the articles, online tutorials, blogs and books that are all related to getting your customer to pay your invoice on time, some of which offer a window into the psyche of the customer and show graphs and blackboard scribbles for solutions.

Others simply tell you to breathe, stay calm, think about adding late fees, listening to the customers child like excuses, oh sorry, I meant, listen to their genuine heartfelt reasons for late (non) payment and offer them a payment plan if needed.

But, whatever you do, never talk down to the customer….. Never be unprofessional….. Never….. Ever….

The truth is as easy to see as a French Bulldogs bum hole at 40 paces.

Hercule Poirot - The Frenchy
This is my Frenchie, Hercule Poirot…..

The truth is that we have, of course, all tried the nice and calm approach. Many of us will use this as a guide for each and every time one of our invoices is brushed aside.

The issue is that the softly softly approach only works when the customer is responsive, when the customer shifts gear and decides to fix what they have broken, and even then, this total stranger with no interest in our well-being or that of our business, who has gotten what they wanted or at very least a chunk of it, has to continue down the path of righteousness and fulfil their end of this secondary bargain, whilst your business has do yet more work as when the time comes around to pay their instalment, yet again they are MIA.

So, what do you do when the customer is not responsive? As you know, we don’t have many options open to us except for that of the legal approach, which, again as many of us will know, and for those who do not, this will, for most of us, costs far more than the invoice total, due to the time and expenses taken, other than those of the lawyer not being an eligible addition for the process of getting paid what is rightfully owed. Add into the equation the legal loops and deadlines that are to be adhered to and this is very rarely a realistic option.

When I say that it is very rarely a realistic option, this is, for that one customer. For many businesses this is a weekly occurrence. If you did decide to chase every customer, you may as well spend those resources becoming a lawyer. Please believe me when I tell you that I know of small businesses who must write off $10,000.00 per month in non payment.

Often its not a case of contracts and signed agreements because much of the time it is from multiple customers, 10-15% of the total customers each month which comes as part of a day here and a day there, plus materials. No customer wants to sign a lengthy contract for a $1200.00 job and even fewer for an emergency call-out.

Another painful reality, is that customers can simply get away with any way they see fit to treat a business. The business is supposed to absorb and overcome the forced backwards steps. Jenny on reception is supposed to be offered additional training, a gift card and a pat on the back for handling the situation so very well with a promise that, ‘it isn’t every customer’.

As Jenny comes to realise that it is indeed, almost every customer, she loses the glint in her eye and her words per minute are now per ten. The backwards steps weigh heavily on the bottom line and the mind of the owners, who just five years ago poured everything they were in to their new enterprise and still do, only now the steam doesn’t seem to be enough to power the machine to full speed.

It is estimated that the “drag” of the accumulated loss from the end of the sequence, the customer, not doing what they’re supposed to in terms of professionalism or payment, costs a small business 3-4 years of forward projection every 10 years. Simply put, if a small business makes it to the 30 year benchmark, 10 of those years are spent making up for the effects of the bad customer.

Stay Above It All
When those that you are so desperate to attract cannot be reasoned with.

What’s the solution? I hear you scream!!!

We must bring accountability to that of the customer. We must make sure that we do speak about what is paramount to the abusive nature of customer as a whole. We must treat them as they treat businesses, by making sure that we are able to know them better and that our interactions both bad and good affect how we interact with them.

Take Uber and Airbnb for example.

I know how this sounds, totally radical, a little difficult to adjust your mind to. However, a customer can research our businesses, read and write reviews and make informed decisions on how or whether to use our goods and/or services, and they don’t have any teeth in the game. Think of the hours you poured into deciding on your logo, not to mention your education and that of your colleagues. What about all of that research into everything you do.

Can you quantify the sacrifice you’ve made, your family and friends have made? Is that even possible? You have moulded this business from nothing but an idea and the years of toil in order to get here and then you let a stranger in. Why?

Because they have some money?

You both have something that the other wants, but you as a business are more often than not, blind when it comes to who you are working with.

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We want to hear from you, the business owner, the customer facing employee, and if you’ve simply stumbled upon this post and are now, as a customer, enraged by the sheer thought of being described as above, please get in touch directly with the Hindsight Rated CEO: Gavin Hesketh.