Last night I made a fool of myself. My son was in the finals in his Rookie baseball league. They had to play an undefeated team, if that team won, they were the champions, however since every team is allowed one loss in the playoffs, if my son’s team won, they would have to play the other team one last time for the trophy.
Before the game I heard people talking about how the other team cheats. Always making sure that every rule is obeyed when it benefits them but bending the rules whenever possible, again, when it benefits them.
The initial plan was to do a double header, if necessary. If we win we play the next game right away. Halfway the first game, word spread that a second game would not be played that night because it was already getting late and some of the six and seven year olds had school the next day.
Turns out that my son’s team won the first game by one point. As we are all packing up to go home the other teams coach demanded that we play the second game right now. His justification was that if we had played them on Saturday as we were supposed to we would not have to pull a double header this late at night.
Let me give a little history. Two playoff games got rained out the Wednesday and Thursday before. Saturday was supposed to be the last day of the season but due to the rain we now had two games to make up. Saturday, my son’s team played three games in a row and it was decided not to make them play the final game (or games, depending on who won) that day and instead finishing up on Monday. This brings us to the double header on Monday. The coach of the other team was demanding we play a late-night double header because it was our fault we didn’t play more games on Saturday.
That set me off. Like a rabid dog in a junkyard I was hanging on the chain link fence yelling at the other coach. I didn’t do any name calling or yelling of obscenities but I made more of a fool of myself than I had hoped. I was immediately, and loudly, shushed by my son’s coaches and the other parents. Nobody wanted to risk a forced forfeit because of some stupid parent playing the role of team jester.
Regardless of all the apologies I handed out later to the parents, coaches, and league president, I have just created an image for myself. Up until then I had been rather quiet at the games, just watching, clapping, and cheering my son on. That image has been replaced with something more aggressive and potentially harmful to the team. That’s not the image I really want.
So I get to my point. In business, sometimes image is all we have. Many companies sell their image, and that image just happens to be on a bunch of products. Nike, Gap, Ambercrombi and Fitch, even Old Navy, all fit that bill. They have an image and people buy into that, and are often willing to pay good money for it as well.
For many other smaller businesses, customers may be attracted by the products, services and quality, but each visit and transaction helps create and/or build an image in your customers mind. Having a professional looking website gives you a good first impression and a positive image in your visitors mind. Providing good customer service protects your image. If you have a poor record of delivering solutions to your customers problems, you’ll soon suffer from a serious image problem.
While a good image must be built over time, a bad image can be created within a single interaction. For any business, it is important to constantly work on building a positive image to your customers. People are ten times more likely to tell someone of a negative experience they had with you than a positive experience. That means you need ten positive interactions building your positive image just to break even with one customer’s negative experience. Building that positive image will not only keep your customers returning again and again, but it will also draw in new customers as well.
[OK, so you want to know who won the game, huh? Well, a bit of poetic justice was served. With two innings to go and my son’s team up by 8 points, the field sprinklers came on. The game had to be called, we won! I bet the coach wished he hadn’t demanded we play that night!]