Friday, September 8, 2017
Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd., says we should better preserve the value of loyalty. He also reflects on 1,000 Tweets.
Loyalty means a lot to me. I don’t go into business relationships burdened by references, unnecessary contracts, terms and conditions, or other bureaucracy. There’s a time and a place for such formalities but I prefer to prioritise other, more human instincts, such as trust and common sense. Further, I am loyal to those who put faith in me and expect it in return. However, sometimes I fear I’m in the minority.
It’s particularly important to show loyalty when one is being paid and trusted to deliver a service. It should be one of the most treasured things in business when a company makes a purchasing decision or a commitment to consume another’s product, service or expertise. Without such decisions, how would businesses exist? Yet, some companies and their representatives have a tendency to take their customers for granted.
Perhaps they don’t realise they’re doing it or are ignorant to the impression they are giving to those who effectively pay their wages. It’s not about going over the top; don’t patronise a customer by buying them flowers every Friday or constantly telling them how smart they are for buying from you, but do show an appropriate level of gratitude and demonstrate loyalty by maintaining, and even improving, the value and quality of service one offers.
Some types of business can exploit their customers more than others. If one is selling units at a standard price for one time use, it’s hard for them to move the goalposts. Yes, they could up their prices suddenly or cut production costs so the products are no longer fit for purpose, but that would be shortsighted and lead to loss of trade. The more complexity there is to a product or service, the more smoke and mirrors can be applied.
Take, for example, an IT provider who installs systems, hardware and software at a large gardening equipment wholesaler. The CEO of Green Fingers Ltd. sources a supplier, tells them exactly what she needs to keep the business operational, and the IT firm specifies a solution. Chances are, none of what the computer experts say is going to make sense to someone who better understands hedge trimmers and fertilisers.
“You need the Interaction Management Supreme (IMS) package, Mrs Smith.”
“Er, ok, sounds good.”
It might be that the IMS system is too advanced for Green Fingers and / or it is multi-layered and includes lots of hidden costs. Further, it might be riddled with flaws and require constant visits from engineers to fix problems. When the ordering system goes down, Mrs Smith has no choice but to pay a call-out fee to get an IT expert on site. Then the software needs updating:
“I’m sorry, Mrs Smith, there is now an IMS 2.0 and the old system is no longer efficient.”
“We haven’t budgeted for more IT systems and we’ve only just got used to this one.”
“But 2.0 is far superior and you’ll notice the difference immediately. We’ll even build in a bespoke package just for Green Fingers.”
What can Mrs Smith do? Yes, she can shop around and speak to her peers and advisors, but she’s got a business to run and even a single morning without email could cost hundreds of pounds and result in upset customers. Then there’s the inconvenience of switching providers and getting to know a new system to consider. The IT company knows this and plays on it. They insist they’re offering the best possible deal and that they’re cheaper than anyone else in the marketplace. We’ve all been put in that position, right?
I’ve heard of insurance companies who are equally devious. They ask what a business does and then wince as if the potential customer told them they transport molten metal in old paint pots across a busy highway for a living. “That’s a very dangerous business,” they say, “And you need nine different insurances to cover you.” Much like the IT company and Mrs Smith, a business has no real choice but to trust the ‘expert’ advice they’re being given. They play on fear. The company will feel they have no choice and won’t want to risk expensive legal costs and fines if they’re not properly covered.
Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if service providers, especially those in specialist fields, showed loyalty to their customers and delivered the best, most appropriate service at a good price? We shouldn’t have to wonder if an IT or insurance provider is leading us up Mrs Smith’s garden path. I don’t like to hear of any business having to let people go or struggling to stay afloat but if these rogue suppliers do get caught out and get a bad name, they had it coming.
We’re certainly going to take a sterner approach to anyone we suspect is being disloyal.
It’s important to show loyalty within a business too. Management should be loyal to their staff and vice versa. Of course, that doesn’t mean an employee shouldn’t look for other opportunities; it might be that they are destined for greater things that their current firm can’t provide. If it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, they should go for it.
However, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. Some people would use an outside job offer or opportunity to threaten their manager or company owner that they’re going to leave. This is particularly poisonous if they don’t actually intend to pursue the opportunity but are using it as leverage to get a pay rise.
If there is genuine interest in moving to pastures new, instead say, “I am loyal to this company and I appreciate the loyalty in return, but I feel this new opportunity could put my career and my family in a much better position; can we work together to find a solution so I can make the right choice and hopefully stay here?”
Earlier this month, we posted our 1,000th Tweet at @RopeandSling. Social media is not a numbers game—it’s about quality of information and engagement from relevant people—but we marked the milestone as it represented the 1,000th time we have posted information to the account that can be used to help peers, customers and other industry professionals. Most of those Tweets have contained the #RopeandSling hashtag.
The 1,000th Tweet, which was thanking a crane media outlet for covering our recent LOLER-related work on the Falklands, prompted me to revisit some of our other Tweets and look at the 1,400+ followers who consume our information…
The University of Southampton Institute of Maritime Law recently followed us, for example, demonstrating the extent to which we penetrate end user marketplaces. A marketing professional from Siemens is another new follower, while the organisers of a shipping summit also decided to join our community. Demolition companies, journalists, equipment manufacturers (we use the #UKmfg hashtag to network with fellow UK-based manufacturers), construction workers, crane operators and many more also read our daily Tweets.
As our network approaches 1,500, we look forward to welcoming many more followers and to continued social media engagement.
Thank you for reading—and for the ongoing support.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd