Deb: Do any of you have these people in your lives? Service people you are undyingly faithful to and to whom you bring all of your business? You know, the manicurists, dry cleaners, seamstresses, dog walkers, butchers, florists, or handymen that you stick with through thick and thin?
We do. We are loyal customers and good customers and all the various merchants and services love us. That’s the problem. We’re the nice guys. The people they can count on. And as a result, we have become the people they can take for granted. They don’t have to woo us or treat us special because we are one of a core group of people who keep their businesses going.
Do they appreciate it? Yes, I am sure they do. Deep down. Very deep down. So deep down I think it seeped out of them into the cracks in the sidewalk. We are the people who frequent their establishments, businesses, pay our bills on time and compliment them on a job well done.
Now I honestly do not expect them to treat me any better than they would treat any customer. Truly. I am not looking for freebees or champagne on my birthday. However I wouldn’t object! I am just looking to be treated with the same respect as everyone. And yet––and here’s where it becomes interesting––I AM NOT.
I am the gal who goes to the seamstress with an appointment to hem or alter my garments. AN APPOINTMENT, MIND YOU! And I am the one who stands there with pins in my pants and daggers in my eyes as I watch her take customer after customer who have just strolled in off the street. The reason she gives me is that after all, they are just picking something up. Well, I am a fair gal. That is fine with me. THE FIRST TIME! But three or four in, I am seething.
Our handyman––whom we have employed for fifteen years––put us on his waiting list to sand and re-stain our deck. I asked him in DECEMBER! Still not done.
We have a dog walker who we have employed for years because we were so busy that the dogs were not getting enough exercise. He also stays at our house when we are away, guarding property and animals alike. We no longer need him as much as we used to, but we keep him because he depends on us financially. We needed him over two weekends and for a two-week period this summer because we are going away. It turns out that, without even asking us our schedules first, he has already taken jobs with people who employ him once a year, leaving us to scramble and depend on the kindness of friends.
I know what you are thinking and you are right. WE are the tools. And, believe me, the infraction list goes on and on and on. I have just cited a few examples here. So the question is, what do we do? These people do good work for us. And there are several options open to us––none of which appeals to me.
One: we speak up and then they are hurt and uncomfortable and I am miserable. My people do not speak up. They have not spoken up for centuries to my knowledge.
Two: we fire them and start over. Well, the problem there is that they all do excellent work and it is a pain in the butt to go looking for people of equal quality, not to mention the lack of time factor.
Or three: we start doing these things ourselves. Ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaahaha ha ha ha hahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Oh. Wow. Ha ha. That was … good. Oh yeah. Ha ha ha. Man. Do these things ourselves...........Ha ha ha. (*wipes tears of laughter from eyes*). Ah. Hmmm. Oh. Ha.
I guess we should just replace them one at a time and become the cranky occasional customer who doesn’t really show appreciation and just employs them once in a while. That seems to be their kind of client. But it’s not our way of doing business.
So ... what do you do when you are the nice guys and want to continue being the nice guys and yet still get respect? All ideas welcome. Help us have our cake and stay nice too.
Barbara: You have me stumped here, Deb. I don’t have a lot of regular service people in my life. (Okay, a pedicurist/wax girl and esthetician who I LOVE and who are divinely respectful … which is why I LOVE them). That said, I did have a cleaning woman once who started cleaning less and less and chatting on her phone more and more. And she thought I was the nicest, sweetest client. No wonder! I let her run the roost. In her case, we still joke that we sold our house to get rid of the cleaning woman.
So in order to answer your question (plea) with a bit more confidence, I asked my guy who happens to be a trainer for service-oriented folk. And he has a simple, direct and no-buts solution to your conundrum. You won’t like it.
You. Speak. With. Them.
Nicely. Not yelling. But like a boss (as much as you hate this word) speaking with a valued employee to find a solution to a problem. You don’t have to go over past digressions, but you should discuss future expectations. Ie: Dog Walker: We love you dearly and you’re the best, but we want to know what we can expect in the future when it comes to conflicting needs between ourselves and your other clients. Seamstress: I only have a few minutes to spend here while you hem my pants/dress/skirt, so while I understand that other customers might come in for a quick pick-up, too many pick-ups in a row will make me late for my next appointment. Handyman: I asked you in December to please stain our deck, get the FUCK over here and FUCKING STAIN THE DECK!