I admit that I am a creature of habit. I suspect most folks are. I have used the same cell phone and the same satellite dish companies for years. I look for brand names because I've usually had good experiences with them. I know I can probably get a better deal on my cell phones and cable/DSL rates, but I am comfortable with these products/services, so I stick with them.

Heck, when my car salesman left the auto dealership he was working at for another auto dealership, I switched dealerships. I have always been comfortable with his service and he has always treated me and my family right. When our kids were small, they used to call him "Chunk" although his name is Chuck. We still kid about that every two or three years when getting a new car.

The point is, I am comfortable with good service and good products and don't actively seek out alternatives, just like your customers who are comfortable with your service and products and who remain loyal to you despite the deluge of lowball contractors and half-price tune-ups out there. Many of us maintain a comfort zone because we know what to expect - no surprises.


Then one day you get a phone call from your favorite supplier, the one you do the most business with and whom you've considered a friend for many years. Let's call him Joe. Joe sells Shiny Metal Products. You have been selling a ton of Shiny Metal Products for years. Your customers are happy with the equipment and you have had very few problems with poor quality or defective parts. The company has been offering fantastic warranty programs and really backs up their products. You are comfortable with your Shiny Metal Products and the level of service provided by Joe, your favorite supplier. You are firmly ensconced in the comfort zone. Nothing can pry you away from Joe or his products. You pick up the phone. It's Joe.

He tells you that after all of these years, he is dropping Shiny Metal Products and carrying Dull Plastic Products. Shiny has changed its management team and is going in a different direction. Apparently Joe doesn't like the direction and he decided he liked what Dull was offering him: better pricing, better national marketing/advertising, and great rebates he can pass along to his customers. That would include you, his good buddy.

Joe plays the loyalty card. He knows you will understand his business decision and will stick with his decision. Or will you?


It's hard going from Shiny to Dull. At least for you it is. Your customers are used to Shiny Metal Products. Even though you are the brand name and you do everything to back it up, people still associate you with Shiny. Shiny has spent a lot of money maintaining a popular national image and you like riding along their coattails. You've done so for years and you are comfortable with the relationship. The new direction Shiny management is going in doesn't have a direct impact on you. In fact, Shiny is prepared to do whatever it can to keep you as a dealer.

That's pretty cool.

But you are also very loyal to Joe. You know he has always been there for you when you needed a part after hours or a drop shipment of a hard-to-get unit at the last minute. He has passed along great pricing to you and is always available to help out if your new tech needs some new product training. Heck, Joe even recommended a good banker friend when you needed to increase your line of credit. How could you turn your back on Joe?

You may not agree with his business decision but you still like the guy. The question is, is Joe's decision also good for your business? I could get cutesy and recommend that you keep the Shiny side up and the Dull side down, but I really don't have the solution.

Maybe you do. Drop me a line. I'd love to share answers with The NEWS' readers.

Publication date: 11/06/2006