By Erin Verbeck
Recently my husband and I experienced the epitome of poor customer service during an already stressful time when we were moving, selling one home and purchasing two others. This story is too good not to share as it has such a great lesson for small business owners.
We had been scheduled to close on an income property for four weeks. Knowing the date we were closing, we made several arrangements to have the property all set up to move in the day we closed. Not only had we loaded the Uhaul for my younger sister to move across country to begin a new life in the property, but we’d scheduled utilities to be set up so she could hit the ground running when she started her new job the following Monday. My parents had even made the 12 hour trip to town to help with the move.
The morning of the scheduled closing, we heard from our mortgage broker (via email) that there was an issue with the underwriter. Not only would we not be closing as scheduled, she didn’t know if we would be able to close at all. While both my husband and I were available via cell phone, the mortgage broker emailed us the devastating news. When asked why we just now heard there was an issue, the broker replied, “I don’t know. I guess you need to find another lender.”
By this point, the steam was rolling out of our ears. Not only did I have an irate sister whose entire life possessions were in a uhaul, we were closing on another property in one week that required the close of this property to go through on schedule.
Immediately my husband called a highly regarded mortgage broker, Rodney, who provided exceptional service in the past. Unfortunately because this move was a relocation, we were unable to work with him on this purchase.
After hearing the voice mail my husband left, Rodney knew he wasn’t the guy to help us in this situation.
Yet despite it being an incredibly busy time for refinancing and an undoubtedly hectic schedule, Rodney promptly called us back to explain why he wasn’t the guy for us right now and why we should stick with the existing mortgage broker in this situation.
Not only did Rodney solidify his expertise by saying no, he guaranteed a referral from us when any of our friends are looking for a mortgage broker. In my experience, 9 out of 10 times I don’t get a call back when someone decides my need isn’t one they can fulfill. Yet Rodney did and despite not solving our problem, he proved that he was worthy of our future business.
The lesson here, just because you’re not the right small business for a client today doesn’t mean you won’t be tomorrow. You never know who your clients are connected to and who else they may refer to you. I know I appreciate it when someone is upfront and says no right away instead of overpromising and later failing to deliver. And I also appreciate a referral of who can help me.
As small business owners, you should be just as happy and interested to help a client whose business you’re earning today as you are a client whose business you may earn in the future. Turn today’s “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you and here’s why” into a future “Yes, I can certainly help you.”
If you see the red and blue flashing lights in your rear-view mirror don’t panic. It’s just Erin Verbeck, our Chief Joy Officer and resident brand police. She’s passionate about brands maintaining consistency in their identity and isn’t afraid to give them a brand sobriety test. With a MBA from one of the top business schools in the country and 10 years combined experience at Sabre Holdings, the parent of Travelocity as well as a top regional advertising agency, Erin has the chops to weigh in on all things marketing. She and her partner, Sarah Petty, give small business marketing ideas at their company, The Joy of Marketing.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.