What Do I Do With Business Cards I Collect

I don’t know about you, but I have drawer full of business cards that I have picked up from business networking events.  I have the best of intentions on following through and calling back, but there they sit, in my desk drawer.

Denise Beins
Denise Beins

Denise Beines with CEO Systems, LLC, is a business efficiency expert.  What does that mean?  It means she teaches businesses and business owners to use their time well.  For example, you can go to business networking events and collect business cards, but if you are like me, you have really wasted your precious time, because the cards remain in a box or in a drawer.

Denise has some great tips on using business cards to begin building a relationship, from which business relationships will build.

I was fortunate to interview her, and here is a mp3 recording of that call.

Click to play, or right click to download to your computer.

Enjoy.

TeleConference-Mike-Denise-05-06-2010

Customer No Service

Poor Customer Service and Joe’s

Let me tell you a short story about customer no-service.

I bought a warm winter sleeping bag from Joe’s (formerly G.I. Joe’s) here in Bend, Oregon last year.  It is made by Columbia.  I bought the bag because I go winter camping and elk hunting, and I wanted a warm bag.  And being manufactured by Columbia, I figured that it was quality and would last me for several years.

It lasted only a few months.

On the 3rd or 4th use, the zipper stopped working.  So it went in the attic back into the box it came in.

Customer No Service

A week ago, I found the bag in its original box that I purchased from Joe’s.  I thought to myself that “Hey I buy a lot of gear from Joe’s Sporting Goods Store, I will just take it back and get an exchange.”

So I went into the store with my sleeping bag and box, and with a big smile.

Unfortunately, I was a customer.  And the NO CUSTOMER NO SERVICE sign was out – I just didn’t see it.  I smiled and explained my dilemma, and said that I just wanted a replacement.  The lady behind the no customer no service counter said that any goods after 90 days have to be returned to the manufacturer.

She turned to the other employee next to her and asked her about this.  She turned to me and told me the same thing.   She said to take it to the Columbia outlet at the south end of town here in Bend, Oregon, and they would exchange it.

AND THEN SHE TURNED HER BACK TO ME.

The was no other conversation.  I was dismissed.  I and my Columbia sleeping bag and box could just go away.  I was no longer their problem.  I was Columbia’s problem.

If I was younger, I would have been embarrassed.

However, I have an online marketing business.  And at my age and realizing that I was watching and experiencing poor customer service first hand, I just marveled at the sheer stupidity and short sightedness of these employees and the poor training by the store.

How much money I had spent over the years at Joe’s (formerly G.I. Joe’s)?  And much more money would I spend on hunting and fishing and camping gear over the next few years?  Surely the value of a lifetime customer was greater than a $75 sleeping bag.

I guess not.

I left the store feeling a little foolish.

An Example of Customer Service

I called the Columbia Outlet Store, and the manager was very helpful.  He was a bit incredulous that Joe’s had me call them, but he said to bring the sleeping bag down to his store and he would see what he could do.

I brought the bag to the store, and the manager, Mr. Bob Johnston, met me at their CUSTOMER SERVICE DESK, explained that Columbia didn’t actually make the sleeping bag, but that a manufacturer called North Pole made the equipment.  He was very helpful.

He was honest with me and said that he would send the bag in to North Pole for warranty repair, and that they may or may not honor the warranty, but it was worth a shot.

I told Mr. Johnston that I appreciated his effort at trying to solve my problem.

The Columbia Outlet Store manager gave me a reciept, and told me that if I hadn’t heard anything in a few weeks, then to give him a call.

I thanked him again, shook his hand and left.

Customer service was not dead.  It was just at the wrong location.

Thank you Columbia Sportswear Company!

And kudos for great training and great hiring of capable people like Mr. Johnston, who are empowered to actually make decisions to solve customer problems.

Add REI, Inc to the Mix

And I do need to purchase more sleeping bags.  I need to buy several actually, because our older sleeping bags are not working right.  I purchased the Columbia sleeping bag with the thought that if this bag worked out, then I would buy more Columbia sleeping bags.

Alas, although Columbia had great customer service, their sleeping bag is of poor quality if the zipper breaks on the 3rd or 4th use.  And if I have only 90 days to return gear to Joe’s, then I probably shouldn’t shop at Joe’s.  And that leaves REI, Inc.  I can purchase quality equipment knowing that if I am not satisfied and/or the equipment fails, I can get replacements – and with a smile.

So, I will be buying more and more camping and sports equipment at REI here in Bend, Oregon, instead of at Joe’s.

Sorry Joe’s.

I don’t like being treated poorly or feeling foolish just trying to get a problem fixed.  My problem should have become your problem.

The moral of this story is for every business owner to remember that their greatest asset is the customer.  Not their building, their inventory, or their employees – but the customer.

Customers are a business’s asset.

And Joe’s just lost one more asset.

Don’t you lose customers over misguided short term profits.

Treat customers like gold.   Treat them like a customer for life, and they will be.