Have you ever thought about how easy it is to do business with you? Are you driving people to your website, only to drive them away again? Are you sending existing customers to your competitors by annoying them? And would you know if you were?

Sometimes I visit a website that leaves me feeling so confused or frustrated that after a while I just click the close button. If you get 100 people interested enough to make contact by viewing your website, phoning, emailing or speaking face to face, how many buy? It’s unlikely to be 100%, but is it even close? Let me give you some examples.

I recently wanted to book a restaurant for lunch in an hour’s time. I searched for their website and there was no obvious online system to check availability or book online. So I phoned the number and it rang and went to voicemail. I didn’t want to leave a message and stand around waiting, hoping they’d call me back. I left it five minutes and called again, got voicemail again, so hung up and booked at a different restaurant.

I understand that staff at a restaurant will be busy at lunchtime, but there are alternatives. A simple message on the site saying “we have vacancies for lunch today” would have been enough for me to risk going. A twitter message saying “5 tables left for lunch today” gives a clue.

I frequently run events and book conference rooms.

One of my favourites recently imposed a rule of a £150 deposit 30 days prior to the event, and a surcharge for any change to the attendee numbers in the final 7 days. I explained this wasn’t convenient, and wasn’t necessary since I’d spent a lot with them over the past two years and always paid fully on-time. They told me it was clearly stated in the terms and conditions. Woah! If you want to annoy customers, just mention terms and conditions!

I turn into an unpleasant customer in a situation like this and said that either they ignore those rules or I simply won’t go there again. It was only when I told a friend about this, who happened to know the venue manager, that we got a phone call saying sorry and those rules won’t apply. Great, I’ll be making lots more bookings throughout the year!

Do you have rules that you’re enforcing to drive customers away?

I know people sometimes let you down and behave badly, but if you treat every prospect as if they’re a criminal waiting to rip you off… don’t expect to have many repeat customers. Your customers need to feel that you are there for them, not that they are lucky to do business with you and have to fit in with your convenience. Your attitude in person and in writing on all your communications needs to be friendly, welcoming and accommodating. If you need to be firm – about payment terms for example – be firm in a friendly way. The words we use have an effect on people in a subliminal way, beyond any logic.

For example, you could reasonably state “Bookings MUST be confirmed in writing 14 days prior.”. That’s a hassle for the customer and entirely for the supplier’s convenience. And I for one don’t like being told what I MUST do. How about phoning the customer and saying you’d just like to make a final confirmation so that the customer (not you), can be confident of the firm booking. Then send an email or postal confirmation of the conversation and firm booking. If that’s not sufficient, you’re saying you don’t trust the customer.

Most customers will go along with whatever crazy barriers you create, but you’re demonstrating zero trust and in the back of their mind… they know!

We do business with people that we know, like and trust.

Trust is a two-way concept. Beware when you design your business such that customers won’t like and trust you. This destroys any loyalty that might have existed and if a competitor happens to reach them, they’ll switch in the blink of an eye. When you create a high level of both, not only will they return, they’ll probably recommend you to others.


Write a list of things that might currently reduce the amount that new and existing customers like and trust you and your company. Prioritise and identify ways to reduce these issues. Make another list of strategies you could introduce or do more consistently to increase how much customers like and trust you – so much so that they will want to go and tell everyone how brilliant you are should buy from you. Then introduce one of those ideas each month, and enjoy the results.