When a Complaint is the Perfect Eulogy

We live in southern Pennsylvania – a place where farm-fresh anything is always right down the road, but you can forget about finding good take-out Indian.  They (and I still say “they” even though my family and I have been living here since 2005) pride themselves on down home values, including customer service.

I was thinking about this as I listened to my wife bemoan the fact that our local propane provider had been acquired by a larger, regional company.  The smaller company, “our” company, was never the least expensive, but they sure took their “down home” customer service philosophy seriously.  The larger company?  Not so much.

My wife’s comments caused me to wonder:

“If we were ever acquired, how many of our clients would be moved to write angst-filled letters?”

 I’m hoping the answer is “a lot,” but it strikes me that there is only one way to make sure – write the letters for them.

I actually did this the other day.  I opened a blank Word document and inserted a two column, 10 row table.  In the each space on the left hand column, I wrote the name of one of our best clients.  On the right side, I wrote out a supposed quote from the CEO complaining about what the loss of our firm’s way of doing things would mean to his or her company.

When I finished the list, I sat back and considered:

  • Have we done what we need to do as a firm in order to make the CEO feel this way?
  • What else should we…should I…do to make this testimonial a reality?

Now, I know it sounds trite.  I’m not really a take-this-test-at-home type of guy.  In fact, whenever I see business books with a worksheet attached, I skip the page.  Even if I happen to look at them, I never put pen to paper.  But this time I did.  I was writing about our clients and the testimonials I wanted to hear.  I was, in a way, writing our eulogy.

Of the 10 eulogies I wrote, I figured that maybe 3 were spot on.  I thought I had a little work to do on 4 more, but I was almost there.  The other 3 would take some real effort – not because our service wasn’t good, but because it wasn’t what I would consider great.  We were doing what was asked of us, but rarely, if ever surprising.

That’s going to change.

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