You’re not in business to be nice, you’re there to do the best thing for your customers. Sometimes business owners get those two things confused. And It can cost you business, or worse, it can cost you your identity. Let me illustrate.
I’m a marketing consultant, that means people pay me for my advice and my ideas. I’m often asked to analyze the client’s current marketing. Sometimes clients throw me an idea and ask me what I think. This is shaky ground because I’m dealing the with the client’s ego here. What if I think the client’s idea is a stinker? Shooting the idea down could hurt his feelings and damage his ego. Instead I decide to be nice and I tell him it’s a good idea, boosting his ego in the short-term, while damaging his business in the long-term.
What you have to acknowledge is that being nice is also being selfish. You accommodate the client so that you can avoid confrontation. Your gut tells you one thing, but your self-interest tells you another. You don’t want to upset the client and possibly lose the business. But what’s really best for the client?
A Simple Favor
Let’s say you are waiting on a customer and things are going well. They have decided to buy from you and you’re excited. A sale! On top of that, you are bonding with the customer and getting along well. So well, in fact, that the customer asks you for a favor. They ask you do to something a little extra. It’s something that you could do, but don’t normally do because it takes a lot of time, and is outside of your business model. What do you do? Be nice? What if you had to do that favor for every customer?
Now you’re getting into dangerous territory. You’re not just pleasing a customer, you’re changing your business. And again, the repercussions are long-term. Doing that one nice thing for that one customer may cause you to step on a slippery slope. Because when the next good customer comes along and asks you for another favor, what do you do? Be nice again?
Your responsibility is not to be nice, it’s to be yourself. Here in my home city of Waco, there’s a breakfast restaurant that serves up traditional breakfasts in an old diner. You know, good ol’ pancakes, eggs, even grits. The owner (who’s identity I will protect) is not thought of as nice. In fact, he’s known for being a little gruff and curmudgeonly. He doesn’t accept credit cards. Why? He does not want to pay the bank fees and mess with a merchant account. Yet people still flock to the restaurant.
But what if he decided to start accepting credit cards and greet everyone with a smile and a hearty “good morning!” It would be quite odd, because people know that’s just not him. It wouldn’t feel right. The place would lose its identity.
What to be Instead of Nice
Be friendly, be courteous, be respectful. But sometimes even that’s not right, as illustrated by the previously mentioned restaurant owner. Really, the best thing is to just be yourself and do what’s right for the customer. And that’s not always the nice thing.
So, I’m curious about your take. Have you been too nice to customers? Can you be nice and still maintain your business identity?