If you are not special, you are not trying

Guarding the beach hut, Thorpe Bay

Be different (Photo credit: Jon Stow)

I have had my run-ins with telecoms companies in the past, and very frustrating it has been.

For the third month in a row, my business broadband provider, which is one of the smaller ones, failed to process my monthly payment and for the third month in a row I had a somewhat threatening email from their Credit Control Department. On each occasion I have logged into their website and paid on-line from the same account using the same method as they would had they succeeded in collecting my money. It is quite clear that the problem must be with them, so it is especially galling when all they can do is send me rude emails.

Following the last rude note from them and having paid the bill again, I telephoned to speak to the Credit Control people, and told them what I thought, but in very polite terms. I was advised that they could not check individual accounts. But, I said, one of the benefits of dealing with a smaller company was that I had in previous years received what seemed like a personal service. They had no response to that.

So it seems I am no longer getting the value out of dealing with a smaller, more caring company, in which case why should I pay more than I would dealing with cheaper but larger competitors? I will pay for value, but not if I don’t get it.

I asked to be transferred to Customer Services with a view to discussing my account. I expressed my unhappiness with the treatment over payment and asked why, with no better service than from a telecoms giant, I was paying more each month and with a lower download limit than I could have elsewhere. The response was “we cannot compete on price with the others”.

I have “voted with my feet”. I have taken my account to a cheaper provider. Value of service is important to me, but I am not paying for what I don’t get.

My soon-to-be-former telecoms provider is going to struggle. If they cannot compete on price and they no longer compete on value they will go out of business.

Our small businesses need to be special and different and offer that extra attention to our clients and customers, otherwise we cannot compete with the Big Girls and Boys. We need to offer value and if our customers feel special, then we have established great relationships with them leading to ongoing business.

Don’t you like to feel special? I do.

Small business and the baked bean test

HP beansSmalls

Shopping around for products and services, it is human nature to look for good value. Because an offering is cheap does not necessarily mean it is good value. It may be though, depending what you want, and if the seller has devised a particular method of delivery that suits a particular market at a cost which leaves a good profit margin.

I think we all like to buy quality. If we are careful we can sometimes find it at a very decent price. Once upon a time we could rely on Marks and Spencer (a UK department store) for quality underwear at an affordable price, but some years ago they lost their way. I have not checked recently whether they have got back their underwear mojo, but many of us have drifted off to find other suppliers.

Not quite what it says on the tin

Not every product or service can be delivered at what might be perceived at a very low price. Sometimes something can sound cheap, but what it delivers is poor quality even if its generic description is the same. The other day I saw a special offer of four cans of baked beans for £1. It was a brand I knew at what sounded like a very good price; better than a local supermarket’s cheap label beans, which frankly are not very good.

I bought the four cans of beans. They are very poor quality, with fewer beans in the can and watery tomato sauce, not even as good as the supermarket’s basic cans of beans.

Premium brand

Some goods and many services can simply not be delivered to a discerning purchaser cheaply. I deliver quality advice, but the cost of delivery is quite high in terms of purchasing technical information, attending courses, being properly briefed and giving proper attention to a client’s problems as well as meeting the office overheads. My fees to clients take this into account as well as the value to them in being advised by me.

If you buy fillet steak or red mullet, the cost of production and / or delivery in getting it to your fridge and table is high. The cost of production of baked beans is low, but exceptional cheapness may be reflected in the quality.

When we buy in services, we should be careful that what we get really suits us, because the better the value we get from it, the better service or product we can offer ourselves.

Have you been disappointed with a “bargain”?

Enhanced by Zemanta