This weekend, I got a call from a friend of mine who’s just started his own small business. When I asked him how things were going, he answered, “Well, things were going along just great, right according to plan, until we had a ‘small problem’ last week.” Then he paused for a moment and went on to explain that it actually wasn’t a ‘small problem’, but quite a large one: one of his major sources of customers had suddenly decided to go with another service provider. “We’re just starting out”, my friend said, “This isn’t the right time for this to happen. Now we’ll have to figure out where else to get customers from.” Frustrated, he sighed, “We’ve got so many other things to do. Now this. Why can’t everything just be easy?”
“Why can’t things just be easy?”
A phrase I hear quite often, and I’m sure you do too, no matter what size or type of service business you’re in: Why can’t things just be ‘easy’? Why do we have to track that data manually? Why can’t we just get an automated report for it? Why do our customers keep calling us with questions when the information is right there for them on our website? These are just some of the examples I’ve heard lately. If only things would work as they are supposed to and go as planned, everything would be ‘easy’…just like pressing that ‘easy button’ that a major office supply chain has made so popular.
Listening to my friend’s story and thinking back to some of those examples, I started to wonder if we’ve created a culture of ‘easy’. And what I mean by that is a culture in which we wish we had no problems. And if we have created a culture in which we wish we had no problems, is that really the best thing for our customers, our people and our businesses?
I don’t think so, and here’s why.
In my opinion problems are buried treasures!
Why would I think that? Because I believe that finding and solving customer service and other business problems give us many opportunities – golden opportunities – to satisfy and delight our customers, develop our people as creative problem-solvers and expand our business’s services and/or products in ways we previously might not have thought of.
Take my friend’s situation for example. As we talked through the ‘problem’ of losing a major source of customers, we discovered that:
- As a new business, he had been relying on a few known sources for his customers instead of actively going out to seek new ones…it was ‘easier’ to stick with what he knew than to look for creative ways to broaden his customer base. And broadening his customer base was what his business needed to do right now to grow!
- In reviewing the events that led to his supplier moving his customers elsewhere, my friend ‘unburied’ a number of opportunities to improve some of the service processes his company had. They had been so busy getting the business started that it had just been ‘easier’ to go with what they had than to spend time making sure they were delivering an absolutely stellar customer experience.
- In spending the time and energy to think and talk through this ‘problem’, my friend ‘discovered’ many new ideas for satisfying his existing customers, attracting new ones, and improving and expanding his business’s service offerings. Although he initially had thought it was going to be a waste of his time to have to stop and deal with the problem, by the end of our conversation, my friend realized that it was actually an extremely valuable and productive use of his time.
Think about it. No matter what business you are in, small or large, there are always going to be problems. Nothing ever goes as planned, and much as we might wish for it, owning a business and/or caring for customers is never going to be ‘easy’. And that’s the most wonderful thing about it! If it were ‘easy’ and we didn’t have any problems to solve, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn and grow as people and as problem solvers. And if we didn’t continue to learn and grow as people, we wouldn’t be able to find creative, new ways to satisfy and delight our customers. And isn’t that exactly what our customers want? And what owning your own business and/or serving customers is all about?
So, the next time you find yourself involved in a tricky customer service or business problem and you start thinking that having an ‘easy button’ to solve all your problems would be the best thing in the world, I challenge you think instead that, ‘a problem is a buried treasure’. When you start thinking this way, instead of spending your time wishing things were ‘easy’ you’ll be able to spend your time and creative energy ‘unearthing’ the opportunities, disguised as problems, that are just waiting for you, your customers, and your business!