Sunday, 6 April 2014

Customer Expectation, Amateur Photographer and The VAT Man


How do you manage customer expectation? I think the answer is you have to do the best “You” can, sometimes it’s not enough. Usually you never know what you did to push the customer over the edge and make them buy from you. Occasionally they tell you when you’ve agreed a deal, almost as if they need to get it of their chest, some are too embarrassed, Sometimes it’s the price, sometimes you have the right thing at the right time in the right colour, but sometimes it’s just the little things you do.

When I was working at weekends and during the school holidays washing cars at a garage, they had a Full VAT inspection. Although they never did anything wrong and they knew nothing would be found, there’s a stigma attached to VAT men, they make you feel guilty when you’re not, and he was as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. In order to get rid of him as quickly as possible they put him in a room in the Parts department.

The room was cramped, overrun with spiders and the odd field mouse, but most of all it was like Ice Station Zebra it was freezing, I felt sorry for him (I was only 12 and I didn’t realise then what a pain in the arse VAT men can be) so I took him a fan heater that I used to dry car interiors when I had wet vacced them.

Years later the VAT man called in a garage where I was working, somehow we got talking about where I used to work, he put 2 and 2 together, remembered me, and since then he has bought 4 cars from me, and recommended me to his friends and relations, from which I have sold numerous cars. It’s The Little Things! And sometimes you don’t even know you’ve done them.

I had pretty much forgotten about this incident, some may think at 55 I’ve left it a bit late, but my philosophy is “you’re never too Old to learn” and the other day I started racking my brains as to how I could make sure that I do the “little” things that make “that” difference for each and every customer. The question that prompted this Eureka moment was totally unrelated to the Car industry, it was “So are you a Canon, or a Nikon man?” the answer was I am neither; I should be because they are the choice of professionals, but I’m not, and the answer was quite difficult to explain without sounding stupid. If I’m honest I don’t care what other people think of me, so here’s the answer!

I’m an Olympus Man and I have been since I bought my first Olympus Camera over 40 years ago. My decision wasn’t price related; I wasn’t “Sold” on the OM 1  by a slick talking Salesman. It wasn’t because it was the best camera for the Job, it had been recommended to me, it was a nice colour or I knew someone who had one.

I had done my research on the Cameras which were affordable to me on my 4 paper round, and weekend car cleaning job savings budget, and narrowed my choice down to Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, and Olympus. There was no such thing as the Internet where you could find and compare Cameras and specifications, just Amateur Photographer Magazine or “Amateur Pornographer” as a friend calls it.

Amateur Photographer was really another version of “The Sun” newspaper, the only difference being that scattered between glamour shots of scantily clad models all the manufacturers and camera sellers advertised their products and prices.

My Dad didn’t mind me buying the magazine, my Mum not so much!, so on a Wednesday Morning in order for me to stay in my Mums good books but still be able to research, erm well let’s say “Cameras” I had to sit in my own self imposed Ice Station Zebra which was situated under the stairs in a Block Of Flats at Glen Eldon Court in St Annes. I used to read Amateur Photographer from cover to cover before I posted it through the letterbox of the only subscriber on my paper round, then made my way to school (usually late). It may just be a coincidence but the same customer also subscribed to Playboy, however I never learned anything about cameras from that.


There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between the cameras, and I knew that in the right hands each of them would take better pictures than my limited skills and natural ability would allow me.  I was largely undecided so looking for inspiration I wrote to the Manufactures, asking them to send me all the latest information on their products; with my letter I sent them enough stamps to cover the poastage cost of sending their brochures to me.

So why am I an Olympus Man, why have I spent over £50,000 on Olympus Products in my Life Time? Why am I now looking to buy the latest Olympus E5 without even considering Nikon or Canon products?

Well my decision was swayed by the one member of staff, who on the day they posted the brochure out decided that Olympus could afford the postage, and they paper clipped the stamps I had enclosed and returned them to me unused.

There’s your answer I am an Olympus man because they sent my stamps back!

It’s the “Little” things.

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