Sometimes when you are running a small start up it can just seem like everyone is out to make your life hard.

I mean seriously – some days it almost makes you want to yell –

‘please for the love of fresh air and sunshine just one person make my life easy…please…’

Even tasks that just seem like they should be simple can end up causing email anxiety (where you don’t want to even look at your email in case it is another thing you need to do).

And it is not the mere fact of being part of a start up that means my time is more important than next persons. Because it isn’t, everyone has the same time in a day.

But perhaps due to breadth of tasks start it involves I am very aware of the opportunity cost of wasted time. And of course compounding this is the fact that if I am not working, I fully believe in not working and for me that means hanging with my young kids, present in the moment, not juggling phone calls and emails.

So pointless opportunity cost is something i really really struggle with, especially when the amount of effort and time required to complete a task is completely out of proportion with the task outcome.

You know the need for witnessed photocopies of your passport in order to reset your online super fund password type of stuff. Where instead of having to track down a Notary I could be making the vege garden more veges and less weedy, building legos with my son, playing in the mud with my daughter, appreciating their mother, or even designing another awesome page of functionality for a client.

Yet it seems so many of us and organisations in general don’t consider this opportunity cost when designing the processes we force on our customers.

I recently went to our bank to top up our mortgage, simple right. We have heaps of equity given the years we have had the property, have never missed a payment and always paid the maximum we can each week.

Instead the process took over four weeks, required us to print out and supply copies of bank statements to the same bank that issued them and a full set of business financials from our accountant. The whole process and every interaction felt like an extended ‘waiting outside the principals office‘ session.

Then after-all that I was informed that because I am technically self employed I wasn’t eligible as they don’t lend to the self employed (because we all know people employed by others will never be laid off).

 Side note here – I have since heard so many stories like this – self employed people trying to do great things but made to feel like failures after approaching their long time banks. Not Cool. 

Now I am not criticising the banks policies here (well maybe a little) – as I trust they have far smarter people than me generating risk assessments but how about this bank:

Customer: ‘can we apply to top up our mortgage?’

Bank: ‘are you self employed?’

Customer: ‘yes?’

Bank: ‘Well you could…but it will be a mission and as rule we don’t lend to self employed people regardless of the advertisements we run about helping small business owners so are you sure you want to waste a few weeks of time trying anyway?’

So with that experience in mind I was looking for alternatives aka people that actually make things easy and I ended up with two examples from two companies at completely different ends of the cost spectrum on the same day.

Part one – The windscreen

One of the team cracked my windscreen while driving my truck. On the scheduled day for replacement I arrived at 8.30am to drop off it off. I was met in the yard and handed over my keys and directed to the office.

In the office I asked what they needed – thinking here goes the morning. To which they replied ‘Just your truck and we have that now’.

I asked about paperwork and received a very friendly ‘nope we checked and you are insured so we have everything we need. That is our job’.

To make the experience more surreal while I was waiting to be picked up, three different employees entered the office and upon seeing me waiting for my ride offered to run me back to my office. After I turned their offers down each of them proceeded without missing a beat to get me a coffee instead.

I almost wanted to smash the windscreen again just to repeat the experience (kidding insurance firm people – kinda).

I mean for real – Thanks Paeroa Smash Repairs.

Part two – The lawyers

The second involves our law firm, who given our small size and lack of funds don’t make much money off us at the best of times.

Yet after getting back to the office I needed some advice for dealing with a particularly vexing situation. I sent off a quick – do you have a second to chat email…in return before the day was out I had a reassuring 60 minute phone-call with our Senior Associate and incredibly detailed email from one of the Partners. For free.

Because they said their job is to help and sometimes the best way to help is just helping right there and then (and that eventually it will pay off).

Sarah-Jane Lawson and Andrew Nicoll from Hudson Gavin Martin best lawyers in the world.

So all this got me wondering why some people and companies just seem to go out of their way to make it so hard, where others make you grateful they agreed you could even be their client and pay them money. I mean I feel like these places should have customer lotteries or something because being their customer is actually a joy.

Original image credit @davegray @dachisgroup

Because having someone as your customer is a privilege, not a right, and I think the longer you have a customer (especially in the technology and government world) the easier it is to forget that.

So if every customer you have is a privilege then the process of every experience you offer and pain you take away should reflect that.

We are going through all our customer touch-points at the moment with this in mind because I know how I want our company to treat its customers.

Not to mention knowing when I am a customer which companies I will be loyal too.