November 24, 2004

Service Providers and Flash

Simon had an amusing post today about a visit to a pet behaviourist who recommended drugging dogs. Simon laughed alone in the room. I'd have joined him in laughing. But that's not why I reference his post. No, it was the description of the vet that got to me. Simon describes him as "an Armani-suited, Cartier-glasses, Rolex watch wearing man".

That description got me to thinking about service providers. Broadly, people you pay to preform services as opposed to providing you with goods. By way of example, I mean lawyers, doctors, plumbers, dentists, and accountants. Vets, too, I suppose. I am a service provider as a lawyer. As a service provider, the last thing I want to do is to dress as if my client is paying me too much. This would make any client suspicious about the fees. Why is this guy so flashy with my money? That is not to say that you should not dress successfully, because you should. If you look like a loser, you will also turn clients off. No, the watchword here is: Discrete.

Be discrete in your appearance if you are a service provider. I am a timepiece slut. I love watches and I like to dress well. I do not wear Armani, however, or any other brand that is going to be instantly recognizable. I do not own a Rolex nor a Cartier. Nor would I wear a watch that would be instantly known to my client. In fact, I wear an IWC. Bet you haven't heard of them, have you? IWC is a very fine Swiss watch maker and this watch is a thing of beauty. But a client isn't going to look at it and say, that's where my fees are going? Nope. I think it is not a good business decision to force a client to think like that.

In fact, I'll give you an example. Shortly after we moved into our new house, my wife arranged for someone to come by with cases of fabric to give us an estimate on drapes/curtains. For some reason, these things cost more than their equivalent weight in diamonds. After the affable Rolex-wearing salesman made his pitch, he told us, in an effort to pressure us to commit, that he was so busy that he had to buy that Cadillac parked outside our house because he was spending so much time in the car and what did we think of that. I looked at the car and his watch and said, "I think it tells me that you are charging me too much for these curtains". And that was that.

Finally, I would consider it poor judgment to hire someone who thought it showed good judgment to overpay for a Rolex. If it were a Patek, on the other hand. . .

Posted by Random Penseur at November 24, 2004 09:01 AM

Too true. One of the key things in service industries is the fine line between appearance and substance. Banks often try and project a feeling of solidity and stability by having copious amounts of marble and impressive offices. I don't understand it when a real estate agent turns up in their Porsche and tries to sell me a house. They think they are projecting success. It just tells me they're way overpaid.

Posted by: Simon at November 24, 2004 08:48 PM

Yup, and that they're looking to you to make that next lease payment. Those cars are almost certainly always leased.

Posted by: RP at November 26, 2004 04:40 PM
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