How friendly are your policies to your customers?  How easy are you to do business with?  What's your company's hassle factor?

My wife bought a couple of pallets of pavers for a backyard project from Home Depot.  When it came time to return the left overs, we took them to a different Home Depot and were informed we could only get store credit.  We could get cash if we returned them to the original Home Depot.

I looked at the big stack of very heavy pavers we unloaded from the SUV on to the cart, which we wheeled from the parking lot to the return desk.  I didn't want to push the cart back to the parking lot, reload the SUV, drive to the original store, unload them to a different cart, and push them to that store's return desk.  I protested.  The clerk didn't budge. We ended up taking the store credit.

Still irritated, my next home improvement purchase was made from Lowe's. I bought a couple of items I didn't need and returned them.  Because I wrote a check I expected to get the "We need to issue store credit or wait 31 days for the check to clear" nonsense.  To my surprise, I was handed cash back, without a fuss, without arguments, without a hassle. To be honest, I don't care whether I buy from Home Depot, Lowe's, or some other store.  Yet, going forward I intend to buy from Lowe's.  The retailer has won my business.  And it was easy to win.  All they had to do was be a little easier to do business with than the competition.  Price was not a factor.

Unless Lowe's does something to blow it, I'll drive past their competitors and go out of my way to buy from them.  Why?  Fewer hassles. Just like I'm agnostic about home improvement purchases, your customers probably don't care who they call for service.  Simply by answering your phones after 5:00 p.m., allowing consumers to schedule service online, offering service on the weekend, accepting credit cards, and otherwise being easier to do business with than your competition will win you business.  Ask yourself how you can reduce your hassle factor.

(c) 2010 Matt Michel

Updated: February 24, 2011 — 12:15 pm

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