Marketing 101: Don’t Irritate the Customer

stories of a world gone mad,

We have become a society of blabbermouths – rude, hateful blabbermouths.

Not too long ago, I hired a repairman to do some work for me. I found his line of work intriguing, so I asked him how he got into the business. He started telling his story, and before I could say Rush Limbaugh, he had launched into a vitriolic political tirade that caused me to look around to make sure the neighbors weren’t watching.

I was floored. I was stunned. But, sadly I was not surprised. Let me clarify that I had never laid eyes on this person before in my life, and he was one of many people in his line of work I could’ve called.

When did it become commonplace to talk openly about subjects like politics or religion, when the weather is a much more fitting topic in most social situations? In addition to being just plain bad manners, it’s fairly stupid, and here’s why.

This guy is a businessman. His quality of life hinges on the success of his business, I would imagine. I spent two decades of my professional life in marketing — which is the world’s second oldest profession, and in many ways related to the oldest.

In other words, business is better if you throw on some makeup and don’t make the customer mad.

During my marketing tenure, I learned first-hand how hard it is to persuade someone to do business with my company instead of any one of the dozens of competitors down the street. This is expensive, it’s time consuming, and it requires everyone on the team paddling in the same direction.

It also takes just a little common sense. Not once did I ever think my company would’ve benefitted from us irritating a customer or making them feel uncomfortable. And, I’m pretty sure I was right about that one.

So there I stood in my driveway — Joe Consumer with my checkbook in hand — listening to this guy rant in such a way that would have made me mad, even if I had agreed with him in the first place. Let’s not forget this person is making a good living, and I am sure he has a family, a dog and a big backyard just like lots of people who look like him and me.

After a while of listening to him spewing about all the freedoms we had lost and how the country was going to hell in a handbasket, I suggested we stick to talking business, to which he said incredulously, “Well, do you like him?”

It doesn’t matter how I feel about him. This wasn’t the place to talk about it.

Some of you may remember a country song by Sammy Kershaw called “Politics, Religion and Her.” In the song, he had lost his girl, and he added her to the list of things he wouldn’t discuss. The last line of the chorus goes, “Let’s talk about anything, anything in this world except politics, religion and her.”

That song would never get recorded today, because no one would know what it means.

I have been struggling mightily with this since it happened. I’ve tried to pin myself down on whether or not I would call him back in the future. Truthfully, I probably won’t. Life is too short to hand money to someone who adds being a hateful blabbermouth to their service call.

Besides, I can get that for free all day long on Facebook.

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