Putting “Customer” in Service: A Small Business View

Three examples I’ve experienced in dealings with other businesses – large and small.


When I started my own business this year, I started looking at all the businesses that serve me and what I could learn from them.

What I soon found was:

  • Basics are not basic
  • Common sense is not common and
  • Customer service does not always consider the customer.

The first fellow businessperson you need to engage when you set up a company is a lawyer.

I had a personal lawyer who said he could handle the paperwork.  So, he did.  The basic fact that I failed to recognize, and the law office was not forthcoming about, was that this should NOT cost $2000.

It should be more in the range of $500 (with license fees included) and can be handled by you with the help of a paralegal company.

This is basic information that I should have been prepared to handle.  Shame on me. Shame on my lawyer for not telling me of other options.

Just remember that sometimes people need to understand the basics of setting up a business and they may not know enough to ask.

The second thing I learned

The second thing I learned is that large companies do not understand the pressure of smaller companies trying to do business with them. The larger company often takes too long to decide, rethinks – several times — their original request of small business owners, leads the small company to provide a host of services without compensation and always takes too long to pay.

It should be common sense that small start ups are often strapped for cash and that their payment is of utmost importance.  But large companies often have 90-day windows in which to pay. So, the common sense that a small business must have is “don’t get involved with a large company unless you can afford it.”

What this experience has taught me is that if I ever go back to work for a larger company, I will have a broader understanding of what it takes to deal with smaller startups.

The final, most important thing I learned, is that customer service does not always consider the customer.

Here are three examples I’ve experienced in dealings with other businesses – large and small:

1. Showing up late for an appointment or canceling at the last minute.

Time is money, but often small businesses forget that making a good first impression is paramount.

That first impression comes with showing up. Recently, I had a contractor agree to meet me at a particular time.  I had lined up several contractors in sequential slots.

This contractor had the first time slot.  He didn’t show.

Despite calling him 5 times in 30 minutes, leaving him text messages and even calling the person who recommended him, he did not show.  I learned 2 days later that he was out of town.

Must have been a place with no phones.  Obviously, he didn’t get the job.  He may have been the best contractor for the job, but if he couldn’t show up to talk about it, I wasn’t convinced he would show up to finish it.

Canceling an appointment or phone call at the last minute is also a sign that you are less important than someone else in the eyes of the small businessperson.

Everyone understands that last-minute emergencies arise, but be honest with yourself and the person you are meeting with if you have to cancel a call or meeting at the last minute.

Next page: Examples 2 and 3 and Takeaway