After calling a few numbers to find a local drycleaner willing to clean a wedding dress, I came upon a gentleman who had a hard time offering me clear information and clear pricing. He told me first that they charge $150, then asked me what I thought about that price. I said, "I think it is too high." So he asked me what price I would like to pay, saying that he was open to negotiation. Now I didn't mind this strategy, because I enjoy discussing the relative value of someone else's service and my current need.
The problem was that he had a hard time communicating to me, and never shared his perceived value within the drycleaning industry to me. In fact the more we talked, the less I took him seriously and thought he was trying to be funny. I quickly wrapped the call up, saying, "OK, thanks anyway." Then I ended the call.
I was pretty surprised about a minute later when my phone rang with the number showing for the last drycleaner I had called. I let it go to voice mail (I was unsure about tackling further conversation with this man). What was funny was his opening line:
"This is Joe Schmo from XYZ Cleaners - we've cleaned wedding dresses for more than 30 years and if you'd like to call me back and apologize for hanging up on me, I'd welcome your call."
Further evidence that somehow he has stayed in business, but with no thanks to his communication style or manners. In case you're not following along with me on this exchange, I was simply trying to be a customer. This person paid to have their name listed in the phone book and I was attempting to help him pay for that ad with my business. Here's what would have helped me:
Quick acknowledgment of the value of my potential business.
Immediate comments about 30 years cleaning wedding gowns.
Asking me a few questions about the type, and my expectations.
Quickly being able to offer a fair price that he is confident in, or if there are more details needed before a price can be given, to let me know that. If not a specific price, offer me a range of pricing.
You have 20 or 30 seconds to make a first impression by phone - sometimes less. Make sure people get the chance to be a customer by giving them the information they need, and a bit of enthusiasm, for them to quickly decide to send business your way.
I didn't call and apologize, although I thought of dropping by and sharing my feedback - which I still may do. I think his heart was in the right place - I just needed quick professional help that morning.