How to be a Better Customer

Last Updated Dec 18, 2009 9:37 AM EST

Have you any idea of how you are being perceived by your suppliers? Are they smiling in your face but grumbling behind your back because they really think you're a skinflint, a drain on their resources or even just a plain difficult customer?

Do you, like some people, actually enjoy being a tricky customer? Are you pleased to be awkward and demanding and screw them down tight? Have you even had a supplier refuse to supply you again after working with you for a while?

I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on how you can gain more from your suppliers and how you can develop a great reputation as a first class customer and not be seen as an albatross around their necks.

First of all, what are you looking for? Are you looking for something that is fresh and stimulating, that will excite new interest in your marketplace or simply make life easier for you in the office? Are you looking for a supplier to bring their expertise into your arena -- an innovator who will conjure up fresh success for you through their efforts?

Whatever it is, in the first place be sure about what you want, how much you've got to spend on it and what your big picture will look like after you've got it.

Make sure you both understand exactly where you stand on this and the detours you may both choose to take on the way in order to achieve the joint solution to your problem.

If you don't know, then you can't expect your contractor to know for you.

Choose carefully. On a simple level, as an example, you need a plumber; would a plumber in an Armani suit with his Porsche parked outside be doing as great a job as the man in the overalls, white van and great references?

  • Can Mr. Armani-suit actually deliver on his promises or will he merely outsource your job to one of his potentially unreliable contractors.
  • Will his fees match his trappings
Make sure you are hiring the person who can really do what you want, and is keen to help, don't hire an entrepreneur to do a plumber's job.

Then clarify exactly what you require to be in place by the end of the process, and don't move the goal posts in the final minutes.

Be absolutely truthful about your budget limitations. don't wind up your supplier with false hopes and promises and therefore waste his time and effort, but be aware that they have their living to make too, and why should they work for peanuts, we all know who work for peanuts, and what you get.
Give your provider free rein to do what they do best and trust him to know that what he is doing will achieve what you want.

When you've got the result you want be generous in your praise with testimonials and advertise his genius in your network. They will be very happy to work with you again, and tell the world what a great client you are.

(Pic: ewen and donabel cc2.0)