When I took over what was a collapsed alumni association and was instructed to build it back up, I decided that I would do exactly that. I examined each employee, each vendor, and each process to see where money could be saved, a better relationship formed, efficiency created, etcetera. I found that the person who was in the office before me had many vendors and relationships with people who were negative, demanding, uncooperative, high priced, and lacking in customer service. I decided to change that. If I am running an organization where I get to choose who I am going to work with, I will choose people that I enjoy working with. For a while, I thought it might just be a "city" or "Brooklyn" attitude that was rubbing me the wrong way. For that reason, I went to my tried and true vendors in Rochester, Albany, and other non-city places. I've worked with some of my contacts now for almost 17 years. We have great relationships and I can rely on them.
This didn't go over well, clearly, with people that my predecessor had been working with for 10 plus years. I will tell you that I gave every single vendor at least three chances to work with me and prove to me that they were someone I wanted to work with. I chose to keep the printer, the accountant, and the attorney that we were working with. We've switched auditors, IT support, premium vendors, and are in the middle of switching banks. Every time I've made the switch, I've moved to someone who is both more pleasant to work with and in some cases more affordable which allows my nonprofit to give more money in scholarships and other student support.
This week, a vendor that has been working with our organization for 52 years called and asked me for my annual order. I'll keep it vague so as to not call them out specifically. I tried working with this vendor over the summer on five separate occasions. Phone calls were answered rudely, customer service stunk, and I was treated poorly when I went to the store. On top of that, there is no parking near the store and my car was actually towed (my mistake in not reading the sign carefully) the final time I went there.
I explained to the owner that I was not going to be working with them any more when he called me. I told him that I had tried working with them last year on multiple occasions and was not happy with my treatment. He said I should have called him, the owner directly to complain. I said that I didn't feel the need to always call the owner when I could just make a quick call and ask them to repeat last year's order. He asked me for names of people that were rude to me. I don't remember the names and said so to him. He was very aggressive on the phone and it wasn't a pleasant conversation. Still, I feel like he deserved a response from me as to why our relationship was ending.
On a side note, my premium vendor of 15 years has had some tough transitions. I've been through three sales people since my beloved Annette retired. In that case, in spite of a few bad experiences calling and asking for a new sales person to call me since another one who had me as a client had left the company, I did call them again. In fact, I emailed the owners who I've also known for 15 years and explained about what had happened to me. In that case, it was my personal relationship with the owner that made me want to reach out to him and let him know he was losing clients (in case it was happening to more than just me).
Back to the current situation. Later that evening I got an email that said:
"I cannot tell you how troubled I was by our conversation earlier this afternoon pertaining to the way you said you were treated someone on my staff during a previous phone call to our store. I even did something that I never have before in the 30 years that I am running this family business and that was to shut down our operation midday for a one hour meeting during our peak season to discuss with my sales associates what had been relayed to me in our conversation. I wanted you to know that I sincerely value ongoing business relationships deeply. Which I believe is why we continue to have client relationships that we have maintained for over 50 years. In a very difficult decision and without having the actual associates name with whom you said “you were treated rudely and unprofessionally” by, it left me no choice but to terminate the employment of both of those Sales Associates who have been me 12 & 10 years respectively. So I really hope you were accurate in your assessment and that if and when you may decide to call upon us in the future you will enjoy a better customer experience.
Respectfully,NAME REMOVED BY ME to protect this person."
Now how in God's name does one react to this? Why would someone fire their staff based on one complaint from one customer (even one that is a big client)? Why wouldn't you talk to your staff and figure out how to fix it? Why, even if you did fire them, would you lay this guilt on a client?
I'll tell you, it made me sick to my stomach. I almost replied, then thought better of it. In fact, although I said I'd give him and his company a chance again next year at our business (I've already taken care of this year's three big orders), I will probably never work with this man or his company again. The entire experience left me hurt and frustrated.
At least I have a new vendor for these things for this year. He is crazy, but we'll work together to make it happen.
If you are experiencing emotional terrorism at work or in your personal life, I found this article to be a quick read and helpful.
Don't get overwhelmed and remember to find the good in every situation. Don't let their evil hijack you or your goodness.