A few months back we decided to incorporate Richmond User Groups as a not-for-profit. We changed the structure of the Richmond User Groups to a sponsored model after careful consideration and a bunch of planning. It worked out well for us and most of the community. Now we're more flexible and scalable, and it isn't such a pain to manage leadership changes.
One of the things every corporation needs - whether it's for-profit or not - is a bank account. But I had a problem: I wanted to start the account, then use money from the account to form the corporation - sort of a cart-before-the-horse scenario. Since I'd been doing business with this one particular national bank for five years, I waltzed into the local branch here in Farmville, explained my situation, and asked them what I needed to start an account.
They told me I needed a tax id number, or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). So I went online and found I was able to submit a Form SS-4 online prior to actually incorporating. How cool! Things were moving now.
I went back to the bank branch the next day with paperwork in hand all ready to open that account. I was then told I needed articles of incorporation.
Now, I don't mind providing a bunch of stuff to get things going. I do mind not getting a complete list of what's required up front.
I called customer support - a centralized service of this large institution. I was told by customer service I could open an personal account in my name, incorporate the business, then convert that account to a corporate account. I'm not a banker, I believed them.
Allow me to shorten the story some here by saying that the previous statement was also inaccurate.
So I went with the competition to open the not-for-profit account for the Richmond User Groups Corporation. It took less than an hour with my Tax ID number. I showed up two weeks later with official articles of incoporation and everyone has been happy as clams ever since.
I also opened my new business accounts with the competing bank. They were just as helpful and I even scored two free personal checking accounts and a free safety deposit box - very cool indeed. Thank you Wachovia.
So today I waltz back into my old local branch to close out a savings account and checking account I haven't used in several months. The savings account is actually in the red $14.99 due to monthly service fees. They ask why I'm closing the account and I tell them - politely.
Now at this point there's an opportunity for some customer service. I'm sending all the signals that I'm about to sever my relationship with this institution. The response?
I was asked to pony up the $14.99 before I could close the Bank of America savings account I hadn't touched in several months.
Great job there - lots of good will instilled. It's a good thing I'll never need banking services in the future...
This happens in the software industry too. Real or imagined, bad customer service is the fastest way to end a potential or thriving business relationship. It doesn't have to be anything dramatic - something that places you second on the list is enough to cost you a consulting gig.
If you find yourself on the other side of the desk in such a transaction, stop and think for a minute: "If it were me, what would I want out of this exchange?"
Answering that question appropriately - and then acting on it - can alter the dynamics of the situation dramatically. Since it generally costs so much less to maintain an existing customer than it does to gain a new customer, this is something to consider.
While it remains online and available, you may want to peruse Tax Facts - a weekly newsletter generated throughout the 1990's and into 2005. David B. Robinson is one of those people every business person should listen to. He's a mentor and a heck of a nice guy. He certainly helped shape my career as an entrepreneur.
Doing good customer service is its own reward. The return on good will is difficult to measure - but I guarantee you it's positive!
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