They’re customers — not friends!

    August 12, 2003

Like many net junkies, I tend to sign up in haste and unsubscribe at leisure. Most sites make it easy except for an ezine I’ll call “Hal’s World.”

Unsubscribing from Hal required waiting through two long downloads and evoking memories of long-forgotten passwords. When I complained, the webmaster replied, “You’re the one who chose to subscribe. Please don’t be hard on me.”

Huh? Hal doesn’t get it. Why shouldn’t I be hard on him? He’s not protecting his customers.

The Internet creates a sense of intimacy. We need to remember that norms of friendship can cloud a business relationship.

We don’t make demands on our friends. When we dine in their homes, we don’t send food back or complain about slow service. They forgot to defrost the main course? An extra hour? No big deal. After all, friends don’t charge us for our meal or put us on mailing lists.

Griselda ran a teleclass like a disorganized dinner host. Forty of the fifty-five minutes were allotted to taking roll, asking us why we had chosen to come, and announcing Griselda’s future classes. Fifteen minutes were spent on a goal development exercise. Since Griselda billed the class as, “Marketing your service business,” we were not amused.

When I e-mailed my annoyance, Griselda wrote back: “I am very sensitive to the way people give me feedback. Please give me only kind constructive guidance.”

Griselda doesn’t get it either.

As e-preneurs, we are not offering ezines and classes because we want to make new friends. Our visitors are potential customers who know we have something to sell. And if Griselda wants constructive coaching, delivered with patience and tact, she will have to pay the going rate for a business consultant.

Complainers help us out. For every visitor who lets us know (tactfully or otherwise) that we’ve made a mistake, fifty people will disappear silently or, worse, share their negative opinion with others.

I treasure the visitor who angrily pointed out a contradiction in one of my offers. I had changed all of the announcements — except one.

I absolutely love the reader who wrote me a nasty note when one of my email addresses died: I had inadvertently killed an alias when changing a pop mail setting. Who knows how many people just left my site in disgust?

I thanked these complainers and sent each one a gift. One of them ended up writing a testimonial for one of my ebooks.

When you’re in business, these people are your real customer friends. They deserve a virtual hug — or at least a free ebook.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant. Your Next Move Ezine: Read one each week and watch your choices grow!