Business startup advice: Be attentive to your customer

Latest posts by Joel Welsh (see all)

Today is a special day for me. It’s exactly six weeks since my hip replacement surgery. At six weeks you’re allowed to do all kinds of things that you weren’t allowed to do after surgery. For instance, I’m allowed to lean forward while sitting in a chair. I can stop using a raised toilet seat. (this particular restriction especially makes you feel like an old guy. I’m only 44 years old but rotten hips run in my family)

I’m still recovering and I’ve graduated from using a walker to a cane. I also set off a couple of alarms going in and out of a fabric store this weekend. This is a special feature of my daily life that I’ll just have to get used to.

What does this have to do with advice for a startup business? One thing I realized as I was a “customer” (patient) in the hospital for five days after surgery is that I was extremely keenly aware of the service that I was receiving as that customer. Some of the hospital and nursing staff were wonderfully attentive and I felt well cared for, which made the others who were not attentive really stand out. A physical therapist who had just “walked” with me for 15 minutes from my hospital bed to the PT room mistakenly referred to my surgical hip as the left one. I corrected her by telling her that it’s the right hip that is now titanium and she responded by saying, “Oh yes, I’m looking at your chart now and it’s the right hip.” “You have to look at a chart to figure that out??” I reacted. “You’re just not being attentive.” My confidence in her “service” dipped way below acceptable levels and I actively sought out another therapist in subsequent sessions. In other words, she lost me as a customer.

Many small business startups are begun as sole proprietorships and in the service industries. One very simple way that you can separate yourself from more established companies is your attentiveness to your customers. That kind of message spreads like wildfire to other potential customers. And so does the inattentiveness.

So here’s your small business tip for the day. BE ATTENTIVE!

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