I’m a strong believer that the most effective marketing is interacting with customers and prospects. Most businesses talk about ‘service’ but they limit service to solving after sale problems. Few businesses consider interaction with prospects to be part of their service requirements.

I was at the receiving end of a few example transactions this week. One person insisted that a form I made was wrong. I explained over the course of several emails that this person was looking at the wrong form. I sent instructions, links and more instructions. She insisted that I was wrong, the form was missing key fields. I could have just assumed she was an idiot and let it go. Instead, I offered to call and walk her through the process. Ah ha, scroll down the page and there is the form she wanted. So sorry.

This exchange took an hour of my time. I wanted to call her but I didn’t have her number which compelled us to go back and forth via email. In the end, she was amazed that I stuck with her through to resolution. I have been receiving nice emails from her since. I also received a couple of referrals from her. These people contacted me and said that my problem person had said such wonderful things about me they had to call. Wonderful things? For helping with a form? Yes.

I had another call from a very angry man about links to specification pages not working. Why did I post links if I didn’t post the PDF files? What’s the matter with me?! The files are there and the links work. I know, I tested them all. But there is no need to tell him that. His government firewall was blocking downloads. So, I sent him the files he wanted via email with a note that I would investigate the links. I thanked him for pointing out my error. Why not? What does it hurt me? He placed a very large order after getting his specification files.

Late in the week I had a Blog issue with a well-known blogger and author. He preaches a lot about building a following through interaction with prospects. Well, my Blog wouldn’t link with his Blog. His support guy told me the problem was at the office and that a filter was blocking the link. When I mentioned this to the guru of interactive marketing I was summarily dismissed.

He told me his support guy was wrong. Even though we’ve had this problem in the past. Same problem. Then he told to just let go of it, forget about linking with him, “it’s not worth worrying about”. When I wrote back explaining that we have experienced this same issue in the past, I received the reply, “nothing I can do!! [sic]”.

This seemed an odd response coming from the high priest of customer interaction.

I concluded he’d run out of things to say. That happens when we get stressed out. Sometimes I too want to just scream, “go away!” But I don’t. I put up with human error. Sometimes I put up with complete and total idiocy but not because I have to, the biggest idiots never buy anything anyway, but because developing the control to handle them makes me better. So I do it.

But worse than running out of things to say is to stop practicing what you preach.

The single most repulsive phrase in business is, “there’s nothing I can do.” It may be true, but you can get someone who CAN do something if you see your customer as worth the effort.

If you don’t see the customer as worth the effort, just tell them there is nothing you can do. That’ll get rid of them for good.

Chris Reich, gored by purple a bull.