Skip navigation

Tag Archives: psychology

GREAT.  I was able to contact T-mobile and get my phone to ring for much longer, giving me more time to answer a call in lieu of the now-disabled voicemail system picking up.  That alone has already come in handy, as I have been able to pick up calls from my wife and my techs long after it would have kicked over to voicemail, inevitably leading to phone tag and wasted time.  I’ve instructed my technicians that calls asking for me are to be screened aggressively, and only those which they are completely unable to assist should make it to my desk (as in one customer today who inquired about a custom computer and needed to discuss the options for getting that custom computer.)

Because I am being interrupted less often today, I have managed to mostly finish converting a multi-language website for one of my long-time business clients to a PHP-based and easily managed layout, including langauge-coded folders and more standardization across the board.  This has been difficult to work on for days now because of all of the unnecessary interruptions that customer service matters have caused.  Now that only essential issues reach my ears and break my concentration, my productivity is already seeing a significant boost.

This is the way it should be.  A business owner needs to focus on one thing only: the business and making it better.  Customer-oriented approaches to doing business are as crucial to success as ever, but the best advice I can give to a small business owner starting out is this: learn the value of making the people you supervise handle things; that’s what they’re there for, and you can’t do your job of supporting their efforts if you’re too busy doing theirs. A business relies not only on good personnel who know what they’re doing and have enough authority to help customers sufficiently, but also on good managers who can coordinate and support the creative and assistive forces of those personnel to ensure that they work together optimally.  Put another way, it seems impossible to coordinate and supervise your workers if you spend too much time doing their job and not enough doing your own.

Separating myself from customers and letting my people shine, both on the phone as well as in person, is proving to be crucial to my ability to do my job.  My techs can’t be expected to do work if I’m not out there revamping the website or performing SEO or passing out flyers or hitting up local businesses or whatever else I have to do as the most important manager in the business.

I can’t emphasize enough that this doesn’t mean I won’t ever talk to customers or do tech work myself.  It’s important for a manager of any kind to be “in touch” with what’s going on amongst the managed, and to provide guidance and assistance when it is seriously needed.

The problem is that many of us want our business to succeed so badly that we forget about the high-level management stuff as we worry over minutiae.  I’d say that as of today, I’ve learned that lesson, and I hope that this post helps others to do the same.

“Well, if we’re all done, I’ll just make myself scarce.”  I don’t know where I picked up the expression, but it’s really cute and gets a chuckle now and then.  In a more serious light, though, “making one’s self scarce” is exactly what I’m doing with phone calls, starting today.  Now, me being a small business owner may incite much questioning about this new policy.  Doesn’t a good business owner answer the phone and talk to customers?  What could possibly be the reason behind this?

There is an article that covers this topic well which deserves an honorable mention: Should You Turn Off Your Telephone? Now I’ll answer the question about why and how I am getting away from the telephone.

I have access to three professional telephone numbers: two at the shop which are daisy-chained together by call forwarding, and my own cell phone.  Both sets of phones have voicemail at the end.  Well, had voicemail.  About 15 minutes ago, I cut my T-mobile voicemail service off completely.  Every time I made a voicemail greeting, it would politely recite the shop phone number, insist on calling that number, texting, or calling back in 10 minutes, and explaining what to press to unblock a call, followed by a request, then a demand, to not leave voicemail because I won’t get it.  That request was not respected at all, and my phone would constantly blip up voicemail notification reminders despite my explicit demands to simply wait on a call back! Where did people lose their ability to understand basic English, and to respect my explicitly spelled out request and warning that I don’t check voicemail?

I felt disrespected beyond belief every time someone left a message.  It’s like they said “okay, I’ll leave one anyway because I don’t give a damn about what YOU want, Mister Smarty-Pants Business Owner!”  It’s like someone else spitting in my face.  There’s no excuse for it.  Nowhere in the realm of human decency is ignoring an explicit request even remotely close to existing, yet people do it daily.  I’ve come to realize that many people simply do not consider the human factor of people in business.  The reasons are obvious, but the most significant one is that each ten-minute conversation to them is one ten-minute conversation, while to me it’s just one ten-minute interval in a huge flood of calls that eventually ruins almost half of my potential work time per day.  I need that time to grow my business, write some software, redesign the website, print business cards, and things like that, but instead it is completely drained away having conversations that my technicians could easily handle if callers would stop demanding to talk exclusively to me for anything and everything under the sun.

I want to be available to help everyone, but I am being forced to come to terms with the fact that I am one person with only 16 hours a day to do everything that must be done.  I understand now why corporate types rarely talk to customers: it’s simply not possible to do that and still get their own jobs within the company finished too.

I have decided that I must take charge of my time.  I must manage my time and treat it as the most precious resource in this company, as well as in my life.  It is limited and non-renewable, and I need to make all of it count for as much as possible.  If that means making a customer upset because they can’t speak directly to me, then so be it.  If a customer would refuse to do business with my business simply because they can’t talk directly to me whenever they feel like it, then I wonder whether they are the kind of customer we are in business to serve.  I hired and mentored a team of professionals so that I could extend my capabilities to more people, and it is extremely important that customers take advantage of their knowledge and willingness to help.

Not to mention the fact that some work might actually get finished around here now…

It’s looking like I can’t tap into the kind of funds I’d like to get without taking those disgusting credit cards after all.  Before I give in to the whole CC thing, I’d like to share some more information on why I don’t want to take credit cards and what I’ll have to do as a very small business owner to deal with the increased cost of business that card-taking entails.

First of all, credit cards take a cut starting at about as low as 1.7% but typically higher, depending on the conditions of the sale and type of card.  “Rewards cards” that give extras such as, say, 1% of the purchase price back to the purchaser work by taking that 1% away from the company that makes the sale.  If I take a normal card for a $100 item, I may lose 1.8% plus a flat $0.20 transaction fee, giving me $98.00 instead; with a 1% back rewards card, I would instead lose an additional 1%, meaning I get only $97 instead of $100 for the $100 item.  Because of these kinds of oddities, it’s almost impossible to determine how much each kind of card costs to process, and therefore how much higher prices must go to compensate (we’ll get into that in a minute.)

One of the newer trends in the banking industry is to give you a phenomenally high-interest account in exchange for swiping your card as credit a certain number of minimum times a month.  You could get an extra 2% interest or so if you swipe your VISA debit card as a credit card at least seven times a month!  Every swipe takes money from me, the business owner, and gives part of it to you via the higher interest rate, and part of it to the bank to make such a program profitable.  You are being actively encouraged to pay as credit, and therefore actively encouraged to rip off the businesses for a few percent of every transaction!  This kind of thing is absolutely dirty, and does not actually benefit anyone but the bank, because the net result is a price inflation at retailers to compensate for the additional loss to the CC companies.  That 2% interest is more than gobbled back up in the form of additional inflation across the board.

It helps to look at any typical for-profit business as some kind of a machine.  It exists solely to make money for its creators or shareholders.  If the business incurs an expense of some sort, it has to repackage that expense into the price it charges to you in order to continue making money at the same rate it was before that expense showed up.  If credit card fees take $300 per month out of monthly profits, the $300 per month has to be rolled into the cost of each product.  How does this work?  The formula is easily found with some simple algebra:

Final cost with CC compensation included =

(Total billed to customer + flat transaction fee) / (100% – average per-transaction % fee)

Plug in values as desired.  For a $3,000 (would-be retail price to you) high-definition television with 7% retail sales tax charged to a rewards card at 4% + a flat $0.30 transaction fee, the business has to compensate for your credit card transaction costs by jacking up the price as follows:

($3000 + $0.30) / (1.00 – 0.04) = 3000.30 / 0.96 = $3,125.3125 =

$3,125.32.

How card fees affect you.

But if you don’t use a credit card, who cares? You do, because credit card companies have a clause in their contracts with merchants that explicitly prohibit charging any kind of additional fee to take credit cards.

That means that, even as a cash-paying customer, a merchant has to spread the credit card “cost of doing business” across all of their products and services. They can’t show card users that card users directly hurt the business every time they swipe a credit card, because that would discourage the use of credit cards and the contract says that’s not allowed. You, the cash-paying customer, are punished for the credit card users’ costs to the business you’re buying from. Isn’t that wonderful? (end sarcasm)

Ultimately, what this means to my business and my customers is that I will have no choice but to increase prices in anticipation of approximately 40%-50% of my sales becoming credit cards.  I’ve actually taken the time to produce a chart of actual prices of some of my store items, from cheap stuff like USB flash drives to entire computers, and how much I will have to boost my prices to compensate, per the above formula.  I assume a 5% rate because with a rewards card and/or large purchase amounts, the rates increase significantly and 5% is not unheard of by any means.

cc-price-increase

It doesn’t look like much at all when you’re dealing with a $13 2GB USB flash drive (the formula I used tacks on $0.89 in my spreadsheet), but the story starts to change when you reach larger orders and higher prices. Our display-model computer system, a brand new and complete unit designed to demonstrate what we can build for a customer, sells for $750. The formula spits out $789.68 as the new retail price I’d have to charge if I start taking cards. That’s basically $40 extra for whoever buys the system! If the person is getting an extra 2% interest for swiping their card seven times a month, and they have $20,000 in savings, I just charged them an entire month’s additional 2% interest on their savings account for that one purchase!  The problem is that I’d have to charge a cash-paying customer the exact same amount because the credit card companies won’t let me take cards at all if I discriminate against their credit cards versus other payment methods.  Granted, there’s the “cash discount” method, where you offer a discount for cash purchases, but that puts you in a grey zone where the CC company COULD say that the cash discount is simply a surcharge by another name, and therefore violates your agreement anyway.  It’s not like you can stop them from terminating your contract with them if you don’t do what they want, after all!

I don’t understand why an average person can be so oblivious–sometimes perhaps even downright ignorant–of “reality as marketed” versus true reality!  If it’s enumerated on a receipt: sales tax, food tax, bottle recycling tax, core charge for an auto part, battery disposal surcharge, government usage surcharge, 911 surcharge, property tax, vehicle tax–people soil their underpants over it, but if the same costs to them are hidden from them–payroll tax, unemployment tax, business liability insurance, “business-class Internet access” (often lower quality than the same residential access, yet for three times the price), income tax matching, and credit card fees–people will happily go along being ripped off.  This is why the government can get away with “we’ll tax the very rich to pay for everything we want to do!” as their excuse for any new government program or expansion of an existing one–no one considers the fact that the ultimate burden to pay those taxes falls on the consumers of a business’s products or services, because the “very rich guy” who runs the company rolls that $125,000-per-year tax on his income into the cost of the products the company sells…but you never know that this has happened and you go on, happily thinking that Joe C.E.O. is paying for your “free clinic” or your “basketball museum” or “free visit to the emergency room” or whatever other “freebie” you’re getting.  Pay no attention to the embedded costs hiding behind the curtain!  Never mind the fact that you’re still paying for the “free” stuff, but the payment you’re making is now hidden and not explicitly stated on a receipt!

Unbelievable.

The next time you swipe a credit card (or vote for a politician that claims an intent to “tax the rich and give back to the middle class” as both recent major Presidential candidates chose to position themselves), remember that you’re the reason that $3,125 television you just bought didn’t cost $125 less.  What can you do with $125?  Maybe buy a Blu-Ray player to hook to said new television?  Perhaps buy some movies or speakers?

Too bad.

You swiped those away.  But it was so convenient, wasn’t it?  And you get a “free” *cough*cough* flight to Hawaii in a year off your rewards points, too!  Yay!

Please educate yourself on what you’re really paying for when you buy something.  Ask any small business owner: “do you have to charge extra on all your products because of the fact that you accept cards?”  You’ll probably get some very consistent responses…or find a business owner that isn’t going to be in business much longer.

%d bloggers like this: