You started out small. Your were cute. You were quaint. No one, not even your immediate family, really knew what you did all day. Yes, you were home alone!
You didn’t need any help, you worked your own hours (which never amounted to more than two in a row), you watched Oprah in your pajamas, and you knew all your customers’ pets by name, because you only had six customers. Life was a little slice of heaven topped with non-fattening whipped cream and mocha sprinkles.
But then something horrific happened. Your idyllic little world exploded at the seams when you decided to do something that so few businesses bother with—you became successful. Incapable of grasping the consequences of your actions, you blindly stumbled ahead exceeding your customers’ wildest expectations and blatantly delivering services and products that actually improved their lives. Just what the heck were you thinking?
So now you have to put pants on in the morning. You have an assistant, someone who actually expects you to provide direction and call them by their first name (as though you have nothing better to store in your memory banks). And you have no idea who’s on Oprah anymore. Life has turned into a recycled Christmas cake topped with a slab of fast food mystery meat.
You just didn’t think things through, did you? Sure success comes with a few perks such as food and housing, but is that the price you’re willing to pay for losing your freedom and ability to dance in your underwear at a moment’s notice?
If rampant growth such as this frightens the heck out of you, I have just the solution. It’s a little strategy I like to call: “annoying-your-customers-so-much-that-they-eventually-turn-to your-competitor-and-start-making-their-life-miserable-for-a-change.”
This is not as easy as it seems. You see, customer service has become so miserably abysmal, the bar set so pathetically low, that the masses will seemingly put up with anything these days. If you merely provide so-so service, or even offer up a hefty serving of indifference, your customers will simply shrug their shoulders and say, “Hey, what else is new? You’re like Martha Stewart compared to the guy down at the photo lab.”
No, you’ll need to dig deeper if you want to return to the pajama-wearing lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed. Fortunately—and here’s the real beauty of my master plan—to return to your former lifestyle requires only that you return to your former lifestyle (I know, this sounds like a Star Trek episode where the crew gets trapped in an endless space-time continuum loop, but bear with me please).
Returning to your former lifestyle means the next time you schedule a meeting with an important client, you’ll be able to show up ten minutes late wearing your favourite pair of sweatpants and flip flops. It means so long to professional sounding voice mail, hello to your four year-old son Zach answering the phone as only Zach can. It means replacing that 100% money-back guarantee with something more along the lines of a “we’re not really sure if this works or not, but if it doesn’t, don’t come crying to us and say we didn’t try to warn you” guarantee. And it means dancing in your underwear while watching Oprah the day before that looming deadline.
Some customers—we’ll call them “stalkers”—will continue to cling to you like barnacles on a beached ship, so you’ll need to be persistently, consistently pathetic to shake them free. The trick however, is to retain enough barnacles so that your ship stays comfortably afloat the way it did in the old days. This is where customer screening tests come in.
Customer screening tests are an easy way to decide who you really want to do business with. By having each of your customers fill out a fifty-page questionnaire, as well as offer up blood samples, medical records, family history charts and a 1,000 word essay, you’ll manage to retain only those customers that are truly loyal to you (or ones that have recently applied for a bank loan and aren’t the least bit phased by these requirements).
Once you’ve annoyed the masses, whittled out the cling-ons and identified your core customers, you’ll be able to carry on with your low-stress lifestyle in peace. Until your spouse comes home. Or your next mortgage payment is due.
And then, like an episode of Star Trek where everyone is caught in an endless space-time continuum loop, the whole cycle starts over again from the beginning.
Copyright Michael Kerr, 2011. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, trainer, and author of six books, including Inspiring Workplaces and The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. www.HumoratWork.com
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