By Tonya Munn
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it’s like to be a Customer in the world, in the present day.
As Munn Architecture re-brands itself, it is not only focusing on its outward appearance, but taking an introspective look too. We have found that growing generates growing “pains.” But we’ve also discovered we can take certain teachable moments and use them to think creatively about how to do better.
We thought it would be an interesting exercise to take an unabashed, unapologetic, absolutist look at the customer/client mindset. I for one often excuse businesses, even give them passes because I know what it’s like to be business Owner. I decided to refresh my view and think consciously —more wholly — as Consumer.
As customer, I hear a lot of blame. I hear a lot of overwhelm. I hear a lot of rules. I hear can’t. I hear welcome… but not really.
My husband and I own a business, and I grew up with business-owner parents — my family lived and worked at our business. I am not insensitive nor naïve about the occasional rude Customer, supplier problems, money, labor, time, and space shortages.
As Customer, however, I do not want to hear about all these challenges your business faces.
If I’ve consciously made a choice to spend money somewhere, I want it to be the right choice. Period. By making that choice, I’m already rooting for that business to have its act together. I want to feel good about where my dollars go.
When I’ve chosen your business, I’d rather be treated like I am not putting you out, or that I am not a burden in any way.
I understand there is a housing crisis. I understand there are global shipping problems. I understand that people harbor fear for a myriad of reasons from Covid to gas prices. I may guess you have thousands of emails and people breathing down your neck.
But as Customer, I’ll be honest. I really don’t want to hear about it.
If you cannot serve me the way to which you aspire, figure out a way to communicate that with me without listing everything wrong with you, your business, your region, or the world right now.
Spare me speeches full of blame, rules, and obstacles, repeated not just at your business, but at other businesses too. Such speeches deflate me, so let’s suspend all that and aim to make our interaction more pleasant. Try friendly. Helpful.
And as Customer, I will aim to be nice to you too.
“We appreciate you. Thank you for being here! We are here for you!” go a long way.
May I get your phone number? I want to book your appointment but will have to juggle some things. I promise to call you within the day.
I’d love to promise sooner, but I also do not want to disappoint. Allow extra time for us to serve you properly... We want to get it right for you.
I am so truly sorry for this delay.
You are valued, Customer! Let’s see if we can.
Please, spare me your exasperation. No one wants to be that one-customer-too-many who is sending you over the edge.
Spare me the multitude of reasons why you can’t have the product or service to me sooner or better. Your boss hasn’t hired enough people and you are overworked? Please take that up with your boss, not me.
Simply tell me you want to help me. Tell me you are in business to do everything you can to serve me in the best possible way.
If you flat-out can’t, if you think I don’t understand you and your perspective enough, please recommend a person who or business that can help me.
Say when it’s out of your control (if it really is), but you’ll do everything in your power to try and be helpful.
I’m the type of Customer, and maybe I’m not in the minority, who can accept that. At least you’ve shown you care.
Most Customers like me live in this world too. Most of us —and I know, believe me, not all — are not dumb. We can extrapolate on our own why the gizmo or the service can’t reach us. We may feel disappointment. We may wonder why the business interest is more important than the Customer interest.
We just don’t like to be treated as if part of your problem— especially if all we did was ask for what you say you provide.
Also, please refrain from overly elementary explanations of stuff. We’re Customers, not primates.
Show me a shred of compassion for my needs. And please don’t act too busy, so busy that you can’t look up to make eye contact with me? So busy you can’t listen to me? So busy, you can't return my inquiry email? Like other humans, we Customers don’t like being treated unimportant.
Instead, extend to me a sliver of gratitude, and above all, give me the benefit of the doubt. As Customer, I have endless choices online and elsewhere where I can spend money.
I chose you.
Isn’t that in itself worth a friendly smile?