Are you easy? (To do business with, that is.)

I often have chats with my parents about my line of business, among other things. And it never fails that my father, a retired executive with a Fortune 100 company, wraps up the easy-going conversation with a golden nugget of wisdom to signal that the conversation is coming to a close and I need to pay close attention.

He’ll say something like “Courtney, I know you know this, but I’m going to say it anyway…” The look on his face turns from a father to a serious business man. The hallmark of his advice is that it’s simple and fundamental. And I believe that nothing is better than simple.

Most recently, we were discussing client satisfaction in general and he said, “Sometimes the only question is, ‘Are you easy to do business with?’” And he repeated it: “Are you easy to do business with?” He maintained that a company gets in its own way if it’s not easy for the customer to be a customer. If you make it difficult, they’ll go elsewhere.

Wow, I just loved what he said. Honestly, I couldn’t help but ask myself that question about our firm. I want to MAKE SURE we’re always easy to do business with.

That very day, with Dad’s counsel echoing in my ears, I experienced a company – or at least an employee – who got it and one who just didn’t.

The first experience happened when I called Barnes & Noble in Collierville on a recent Saturday morning searching for a book my son needed desperately for school. This was after I had furiously called local libraries with no success. I called at 9 a.m., and no answer. No answering machine to tell me anything either. I thought they just might be too busy to catch my call. Not easy.

Thirty minutes later, I called back. After maybe the 12th ring (again not easy), a colleague answers. I tell him what I need, and he said “We don’t open until 10. Please call back.” Not easy – with an exclamation point! Obviously, this guy was already at work and “on the floor” and on the clock – not answering the phone from bed in his PJs – and yet he couldn’t tap on his computer and check on the book’s availability.

On the flip side and on the same day, my husband and I made a grocery run to a Kroger near our neighborhood. We were looking for ground pepper. We easily found the spices aisle, but could not for the life of us put our eyes on the ground pepper. One of the colleagues – I wish I had caught her name – saw our glazed “can’t find the pepper” look and approached us. Not only did she help us – and lightning fast – she was HAPPY to help us. In fact, she was jolly. How refreshing indeed. She made it super easy, with a smile on top.

Sometimes, the life of a company gets so complicated with crunching numbers, evaluating this and evaluating that. It can be dizzying, and with no tangible results. Sometimes, we just need to ask ourselves the most simple of questions to reach the most profound of solutions.
Are you easy to do business with?