Whether we read about this in business related articles or work with business coaches, we as entrepreneurs are encouraged to describe and strive for working with our idea of a Perfect Customer. I can only approach these thoughts and experiences from a service industry, but I do see where a number of “wishes” would also be appreciated in the retail and public sector.
Once upon a time I would work anywhere, anytime, for an hourly fee. Trying to do bookkeeping in the back-room of a dimly lit women’s clothing store on a rickety card table on Queen Street in downtown Toronto still comes to mind, vividly. And that’s after more than 20 years since I was last there! When starting out most of us take on any customer that promises to pay.
What would you do differently?
“If I knew then what I know now”, haven’t you had the same thought? And what would you do differently? Could I have avoided travelling that distance and working in those conditions? Now I believe I could have, but I didn’t at that time. I wasn’t confident in explaining the experience and knowledge I had accumulated, and the value I brought to the customer. And some money was better than none.
What does a Perfect Customer look like?
Whether you’re just starting the entrepreneurial journey or have had numerous and varied customers for a number of years, here are a few characteristics to consider when describing your Perfect Customer:
- Willing to take advice
- Sets reasonable expectations
- Pays promptly
- Respectful – this is my #1 criteria and this is a 2-way street. Is it there? It’s not a commodity that can be given, it needs to be earned. Using 100% of listening skills, without interrupting. When a commitment of time or money is made, everything should be done to honour that commitment. Valuing knowledge and energy invested in making the relationship work. While some of this is learned with time, some can determine the potential of mutual respect in the first 10 minutes of the interview process. If you find it isn’t there maybe the relationship should be terminated before it really begins. It’s easier to cancel the wedding date than it is to work on the divorce.
Well known speaker and author to accounting and other professional industries, Ron Baker, states in the book he co-authored, The Firm of the Future “Bad Customers Drive Out Good Customers”. Before Ron became a mentor to me I never would have thought about firing a customer. But once I started the culling process, the type of customer I really wanted to work with connected with me.
How can you tell a customer is “bad” before it’s too late?
One indicator of a bad customer for us was “the phone call”. When the phone rang and with call display none of us wanted to answer it, it was time to re-direct the customer to another bookkeeper or tax preparer. I know it made for a less stressful office environment for us and I can only hope the prior customer now has a solid respectful working relationship with their new service provider.
So who is a Perfect Customer for The Montana Group?
Definitely all of the above, but we also have additional criteria;
- Embraces technology – the new customers we work with will be using, or agree to, QuickBooks Online. They don’t have to be technical wizards, just open to working in the 21st
- Willing to work with an office attempting to go paperless – those who send us PDFs and spreadsheets, not dropping off 6 inches of paperwork. We can be better organized while the number of trees being saved is immense. Plus the receipts don’t fade.
- Understand Value Pricing and the pricing model– it’s not about the time we spend on your work, it’s the quality of work we bring to your business. Don’t hesitate to contact me regarding this concept if you would like to learn more.
Do you have a list of criteria that must be met before taking on a new customer? I would be very interested in hearing what yours are.
You can connect with me by clicking the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website or you can leave your information in the form of a comment right here on the site.
Until next time,