Be the choice you want your customers to make

In deciding to do business with us, customers have to make a choice. To decide actually means to “kill off choice”. While that choice can seem like a good one in the beginning, over time, doubts and worries can start to creep in, which eventually can result in the customer making another choice; to move their business somewhere else.

Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling into Melbourne CBD on public transport three days in a row, which is not something I normally do. While the morning trips were okay, two of the evening trips back home were an absolute nightmare.

On the first evening, the trip home went of without a hitch. On the second, the screen on the platform showed my train, stopping all stations, just about to arrive, so I got on it. At the first stop, the train started to reverse a little. I thought it had just overshot the station, but no. The doors closed and it sped back towards Southern Cross, the station I had just come from. Wondering what the hell was going on, I got out and took a look at the screen. Lucky I did. Suddenly this train was headed somewhere else and not at all where it said it was going originally. Hastily, I grabbed my gear and got off again. Eventually, another train arrived and I made it home without an unplanned detour to the outer southeast.

The third and final night was the worst. Standing again on the platform at Southern Cross, the screens promised a Frankston train coming in three minutes. When those three minutes had expired, the screen changed, and that train became a Flinders Street train. This switch on the screen happened three times in a row. No announcements, no explanation. Stuck in the city, without other options to get home, I stood there without a clue of what to do.

Half an hour passed without a train arriving, and finally I was forced to ask for help. Raelene, a friendly-looking woman who had just arrived on the platform, explained that I should go to Flinders Street and wait for a Frankston train there. Grateful for the advice, I asked my new transport buddy about my train-reversing problem from the previous night, keen to see if I was in fact going crazy. Apparently not. “That kind of thing happens all the time,” Raelene said. “Last week, I was on a train that said it was going to Frankston and actually ended up in North Melbourne (completely the opposite direction). I’d had a long day at work, and with my head buried in my Kindle, just didn’t notice the wrong stations whizzing by until it was too late.”

So, our train system is unpredictable. This in itself is probably not that surprising.

What really got me, though, is that the regular commuters on the platform that day didn’t seem shocked, like I was; they were just putting up with the bad service and working around it as best they could.

Eventually though, when it comes time for the government to renew the public transport contracts, I reckon these very same people will rise up like an army to voice their dissatisfaction.

Within every long-term customer relationship, there are niggles that everyone gets used to. People stop complaining about them, but that doesn't mean they're not there, and they can seriously derail your chances of winning the business for a second time.

If you'd like to explore this issue in your business, there are still a few places left in my one-day workshop How To Retain Your Most Important Contracts and Customers in two weeks’ time. Hope to see you there.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business that is won through competitive bids and tenders. Her clients have won and retained hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business with many of Australia’s largest corporate and government buyers.

Do you have ambitious growth targets this year? Keen to win the business you REALLY want, at the margins you want, and have more fun doing it? Let me help you to design and build an offer that is so commercially valuable, your target customers would be crazy not to buy it. For a copy of the white paper Pole Position - How to Achieve New Business Success, email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.