Let’s play a game this year and maybe you’ll play along.

I’m going to attempt to keep a record of all the companies who either lose me as a customer or who simply lose a potential sale. Reasons for either one can vary, but they shouldn’t be product-related; they should be marketing, sales, customer service, experience, ignorance, arrogance, apathy, or stupidity related. (I reserve the right to add to that list as I see fit.) I’ll share the story behind  each case and how much money they lost. I’ll also keep a running total as the year goes on.

And I think it would be fun if we started a collective running total for all of us for the year. If you want participate, it’s easy. Just send me a note about a company who lost your business. What happened? And more important, HOW MUCH OF YOUR MONEY DID THEY LOSE? We’ll look for the marketing lessons we can all learn from. (I just hope I’M not in any of your stories!)

The idea for this came as a result of two different situations in the last week. It’s only January 10 and I’ve already got two. No a good sign for the year ahead. So here are my first two:

Case #1

I’ve been going to my personal doctor for about twelve years. He was a sole practitioner and a pretty good guy. He and his office staff understood my wacky travel schedule and worked with me when needed for changing appointments. If I needed to get in immediately for something like a bad cold or the flu, they worked me in as soon as possible. I felt very good about our relationship and my wife, Kay, starting going to him a few years ago, too.

About mid-December we received a letter from him explaining he was joining the Virginia-Mason Medical Center staff. I couldn’t really blame him for leaving his sole practice. I understood the challenge of having your own small business — paying his office and nursing staff, covering expenses, health insurance (!).

Last week I caught a bad cold from my evil daughter, Kelly. After fighting it for a few days, I gave up and called Virginia-Mason to get in. Instead of a familiar voice, I got a member of the V-M Assignment Team! She cheerily shared that the first appointment available was the next Tuesday — five days later! I coughingly shared that I needed medical attention TODAY and there was a very good possibility I may not survive until the next Tuesday. She said she’d get back to me.

To bring this story to a close, she didn’t get back to me. I did, however drive to a nearby small medical practice and begged for an appointment. They cheerily made room on their schedule that same day. The doctor was great, the nursing and office staff more than friendly, and they now have a new patient.

2008 Money Lost by my first doctor — $650


Case #2

We need a new furnace. According to a couple of repairmen, we have a "cracked heat exchanger." This may or may not be a problem based on who you talk to. Both said it wasn’t dangerous, but could become so in the near future. It’s an old furnace, so Kay and I decided to get a new one. We called several heating companies to come out and give us bids.

The first said they needed two hours of our time and both Kay and I have to be present, and their furnaces ranged from $3000 – $10,000. I HATE companies who do that. Kay is more than capable of getting information and make a decision by herself. Cross them off the list.

The second company sent a guy out who tried to scam us. We showed him the furnace and the cracked heat exchanger. He started acting woozy and said, "Wow, it’s so bad, I’m getting light-headed just standing here." He then "urged" us to get a new furnace TODAY for our own safety. It’ll just cost $4900. We showed him the door.

The third guy looked over the furnace, asked questions about the size of our house, how many vents we had, and some other questions that NEITHER of the other two asked. He asked Kay and I to sit down for a few minutes and said, "Here’s what you need. It’ll cost $3800 installed." He answered all our questions. We were done in 15 minutes and he’s installing our new furnace on Tuesday.

2008 Money Lost for the first two companies – $3800.

2008 Running Total – $4450