Have you ever called someone, and as soon as you say who you are you hear a letdown in their voice, like they were expecting the lottery committee, but instead they got a telemarketer? What if it had been Brad Pitt or… fill in the blank with your favorite celebrity. Which way do you treat your customers? Are your customers getting the red carpet treatment?
After working in the entertainment industry for many years I’ve seen the lowliest nobody suddenly being hounded by everybody once they make it to a certain level. And the same people turn on a dime when they are no longer in that position. And it’s happened to me twice. The first time I was hosting a TV show and working behind the scenes in the role of producer. Saturday Night Live was at its peak and we had some of their writers writing the show. Broadway dancers doing the introduction. And Billy Joel’s arranger writing the music for my segment.
It was great. I was fielding calls from people I never imagined I would even be able to get on the phone. And they wanted to be in our TV pilot. I also got tickets to just about anything I wanted to see on Broadway. Shows I could never afford on an actor/waiter’s salary. Tickets to the hottest parties in town and dinners in the nicest restaurants. People were thrilled when I called, or at least they acted like they were.
But the day the show wasn’t picked up, the furniture company was literally picking up the furniture. No more tickets or fancy dinners. And people no longer took my calls. For a 21 year old that was a big reality check. I’ll never forget sitting in an empty and silent office wondering what happened.
Flash forward years later after some up and down years as an actor. Many of those years were spent begging for work. Sometimes getting a lot of it and sometimes waiting tables. Suddenly I found myself in an enviable job as a TV/film distributor. I was the one that bought the rights to the movies and TV shows for foreign distribution. The same people that hired me (or not) as an actor were now trying to get me to buy their stuff. Again it was the tickets, the fancy dinners, the celebrity parties. And everyone took my call enthusiastically.
The job lasted for about a year, and the day it ended those same people turned on a dime. And all the perks and swag were gone. I’d like to say that I was prepared for it, but you never are.
The 80-20 rule is true. 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers. How do you treat them? Are you happy to hear from them when they call? Do you send them swag out of the blue? Or even just a hand written card or letter? Just to let them know they’re appreciated. Just to say hello and find out how the family’s doing. What if it was Brad Pitt calling? Would you react the same way?
Treat your customers like they are the most special people in the world and you can keep them for life. Remember birthdays and things that they talked about. Remember the little things. This is how you can win customers over the big guys. And it doesn’t take much.
So, what did I learn from my time at the top? That what goes up must come down. And what comes down can always go back up. Yeah, I know, it’s profound. Maybe there’s still time to dust off that Academy Award speech I’ve been practicing since high school. You never know.