It Saves to Be Nice Part 1: It’s Business But It’s Also Personal

When I decided to do an article on how being nice can save you money based on my own experiences in business and customer service (both as receiver and provider), I had intended it to be a single post. But the end result was over 2,100 words, and I figured the chance that even one person would read it through to the end in one sitting was less than 0, so I will be posting it as an 4-part series in the week to come.

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When we were all learning to talk, one of the first concepts our mothers tried very hard to ingrain in us was the habit of saying “please” and “thank you.” There is a very logical reason for this aside from keeping you from embarrassing her in front of other parents. Social evolution has shown that being polite is advantageous to one’s position in all walks of life. Most people prefer being around and talking to nice people (with the exception perhaps of Dr. Gregory House), and the natural reaction to niceness is niceness in return.

This goes for business interactions as well as personal. As much as people like to believe that business dealings – whether you’re the consumer or the business – are impersonal, it just isn’t true. If you have ever had a job where you had to deal with the general public, unless you are an absolute saint, I am sure you’ve met your share of unpleasant people and your behavior towards them was affected by it. Even though company policies (instituted by executives who don’t have to deal with difficult customers on a daily basis) often dictate that “the customer is always right,” human nature has its limits.

It’s Business, But It’s Also Personal

As a small business owner who also does customer service, I have personally dealt with hundreds of customers in the past few years. Because our product is custom pet clothing and costumes, our dealings with customers are often more in-depth than the average business as it often requires several email exchanges discussing design and sizing (fabrics, colors, pets’ measurements, special event deadlines, etc.).

The nice thing about our line of work is that we are working with fellow dog and horse lovers, and in my experience these types of people are some of the nicest in the world (yes, I am biased.) Everyone thinks that their dog or horse is special, which is exactly how it should be. And most everyone who cares enough to have a custom outfit made for their pet is a nice person. But even in this line of work, I have dealt with some customers who just rubbed me the wrong way.

When we custom design an outfit especially for a customer, we determine the price we charge per project based on material costs, complexity of the design, time to make the outfit, etc. Most of the time, we are methodical and reasonable in our pricing. But I have to admit that once in a while, when a customer rubs me the wrong way by being rude or unreasonably demanding, we do tend to charge a little more than we might otherwise to compensate for the unpleasantness – and sometimes in the hopes that they’ll just go away.

I know it’s not smart business practice and that we might lose money this way. And it is rare that a customer offends me so much that I do this, but it has happened once or twice. So, why do we do this?

Risky Business

When we feel that if a potential customer is troublesome in the initial stages of the sale, they could turn out to be troublesome after we’ve made their custom design. A troublesome customer might file a chargeback on their purchase after receiving it, seize their money back while keeping the costume, which would cost us the money we’ve spent on special ordering the materials, time spent making it and the cost to ship it.

Check back soon for Part 2 of 4 in our series on how it saves to be nice!

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5 thoughts on “It Saves to Be Nice Part 1: It’s Business But It’s Also Personal”

  1. Awesome post –
    It is striking how courtesy, manners, and politeness have all become dinosaurs in our culture. It seems that many businesses in my community need lessons in customer service – it’s like they truly don’t care. It just flabbergasts me. Isn’t good customer service, business 101???

  2. Good points. Nice is much better than the alternative in most cases. In business, it seems to be just about essential, unless you want to sever the relationship or the chance for a returning, referring, pleased customer.

  3. I used to work at a pediatric specialist’s office, where the customers are, as a rule, ill, and the customers’ parents were, as a rule, anxious and sleep deprived. All I can say is that being on the front lines of customer service for that job was a nightmare. Sure, there were a fair number of decent people with normal ideas about social interactions. And then there were the *other* parents. It taught me a valuable lesson: the people who answer phones, handle the booking of appointments, and register patients in a doctor’s office may seem insignificant or powerless. They’re far from it. Be nice to those people. If you or your child need to be squeezed in for an emergency, guess who decides whether the staff delays their lunch break for another half hour? The person answering the phone, that’s who.

  4. 🙂 Tattoo shops do the same thing. The more you whine & fidget & make the tattoo artists’ job more difficult, the more they’ll charge you. They told me that up front before I sat down to get my tattoo. It cut the squirming down to a bare minimum! LOL

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