Marketing / Customer service

Do customers think you’re ‘great … but’?

Are you doing a fantastic job for your clients but they're not referring you on to others? Maybe it's because there's always a 'but' that goes with the service you're providing.

3 November 2015 by

Your core service or product offering may be central to your success, but interactions surrounding purchases are crucial too, and these are often where soloists fall down.

Disappointed customers may describe their experience like this:

    “The plumber was great, but didn’t return my calls to let me know when he’d come.”
    “The drumming lessons are great, but I always have to chase the teacher for an invoice.”
    “The Pilates itself is great, but her classes never start or end on time.”

My observation is soloists are particularly susceptible to this kind of neglect and it is often a symptom of working too much in the business and not enough on it.

If you think your customers haven’t noticed any flaws, you’re wrong. Most consumers are attuned, savvy and harsh markers. And often, uncommunicative in that they’ll simply vote with their feet and money if you annoy them once too often.

Important to note is the fact the ‘great offering/lousy everything else’ model can be flipped and just as detrimental, e.g. the new restaurant with a great fit out, fabulous service and so-so food, or the consultant with the super slick website whose advice leaves you floundering.

"If you think your customers haven’t noticed any flaws, you’re wrong. Most consumers are attuned, savvy and harsh markers."

Big businesses are far from immune here, and often excel at selling the sizzle, yet the steak is tough as old boots. You know this happens whenever the marketing department do a great job, but customer service doesn’t. A symptom is when you hear ‘if you’re enquiring about our products, press 1, if you’re an existing customer, press 2.’ They may as well just say ‘Press 1 and you will be transported to a human in the speed of light. Press 2 to listen to Burt Bacharach for the next 20 minutes.’ Whenever I’m waiting for a long time and told by a recorded voice ‘your call is important to us.’ I often tut down the void saying ‘no it isn’t or you’d hire more staff or have a better FAQ page.’

Back in Soloville, the good news is there is heaps of room for improvement and often the ‘could do better’ element is very easily fixed. If you’ve found this read a bit salty, I’m glad! You know what you have to do. Another way to help is to share ‘feedback’ with businesses in order to help them improve.

In the meantime I hope the plumber can engage a virtual assistant, the drumming teacher can get herself some accounting software and the Pilates teacher a bigger clock.

I’d love to hear your observations of a ‘great, but’ business, or better still the story of how you turned around disappointed customers.

Sam Leader

is a director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.


  • I read the title of this blog as – ‘Do customers think you have a great butt?”

    If they saw it, I’m sure they would.

    • Haha! That’s a question we should have put on the survey! Always next time…

    • Kate I’d love to have a chat with you about misheard song lyrics. I’m laughing just imagining it!

      • “Mulligan’s Tyres” by Paul McCartney. It’s a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll!

  • Salty Sam rubs the wounds! Great article. In my service biz I need to be ‘strict’ with clients who want to chat. Allowing this can cause timing problems and then the perception of disappointment that the time and service were poor. Great singing teacher But!
    Meanwhile, I have dumped my hairdresser due to a lack of chat (come on I have to sit there for a while, so a bit of idle chatter is fine) and my hair cut was the same year in and out. Great hairdresser BUT!

    • Ah yes, Kath, training clients is an interesting one – a whole other newsletter in that I reckon!

  • My own pet hate is trying to deal with companies that go to the trouble of creating a website and add their email address or a contact message form… and then never respond when you try to message them via one of those options.

    • Oh Yes Lee333- great website, content, contact page, product-BUT! why are we waiting? as the old song goes.

    • I am so with you. The very least they can do is state when you can expect to hear back from them by but this seldom happens!

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