Biting the hand that could feed you


This I don’t get. If you are in a service business, one that counts on your customers choosing you over another provider, does it make sense to berate potential customers for NOT choosing you? I hope you are all saying, “well, duh! Who would do that?” You’d be surprised.

I’ve now run across two situations in the past 10 years where that’s exactly what happened. You might be thinking that two times in 10 years is statistically insignificant, but not when you consider the impact of these actions and my outlook to never deal with these companies again. Let me explain.

The first situation dates back to my days at Valleyfair in Shakopee, MN. I was in charge of putting our trash service up for bid, which is a big deal considering how much trash an amusement park creates on a given day. The final decision came down to two providers: one that is a national brand with a big name (possibly featured on Undercover Boss), the other was a local, home-grown company that was hungry to land a big client.

Based on the cost and the service we anticipated, we chose the local guys. When the call was made to the national chain, I was told that I made a mistake, I’ll regret my choice and that I didn’t know what I was doing. Really? Did this person not realize that we might put the trash service up for bid again in a few years, just to make sure we’re still getting the best deal and service available? I guess he wasn’t thinking that far ahead. (I also wonder what the “undercover boss” would have thought of this interaction!)

The second instance occurred just last week when my wife and I contacted a local contractor (lets call him Jack) to bid on a paver driveway. We had already gotten one bid, but wanted a second opinion to compare it to.

When we chose not to avail ourselves of Jack’s services, he similarly got agitated, questioned our decision making and I think, was trying to guilt us into going with him because of all the work he did on the bid. Sorry, a bid is just that-a bid. No promises.

I have to ask myself, were these two folks probably proud of the service they could provide and rightly upset that they were not chosen (thus losing sales)? Sure, so I can’t fault them for feeling that way. My beef is with the way they reacted to the news of not being chosen and the short-sightedness they both displayed by not realizing we may need them in the future, or even that we might – gasp – talk to others about our poor experience with them as a business, not just their end product.

Maybe it ultimately comes down to realizing that with a few exceptions, ALL businesses are service businesses. You may pull trash, install driveways, sell furniture, provide financial advice, or put people on a crazy contraption that flips them this way and that way to the point of almost losing their lunch. In each instance, there is a transaction of service. And in the case of submitting a bid, there is service before you get to the service. It can be a long process! What does that look like for you?

Getting back to our title, many of us know that we shouldn’t bite the hand that is currently feeding us. Duh. I think we also need to be aware of how we treat potential customers… otherwise they turn into non-customers and eventually we starve.

Thanks for reading.

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