You’re doing business even before the transaction happens

I want to rent a house for a vacation this spring, and I found what looks to be a perfect one on a vacation rental site.  It said to contact the owner for availability, so I sent him an email.  I won’t bore you with all the minutiae of what’s happened since then, but every promise to get back to me about availability, to send me paperwork, to confirm my reservation—none of them have been fulfilled.  I’ve been ready to pay and lock this down since my first contact.  But at this point, I am essentially begging him to take my money.

So far, the outcomes are:

1) He’s made it much harder than it needed to be for me to do business with him.
2) I’m now predisposed not to feel good when I pay him money.   

No money has changed hands yet, but I’m already not feeling good about doing business with him, which is too bad, because he seems like a nice guy (if he were a jerk, this would have been over a long time ago).  When we’ve started out like this, there’s already ground to make up.  I can’t help but wonder if this is a sign of disorganization to come.  Even if everything else goes perfectly from here on—if the house is beautiful and it’s everything I hoped it would be—I’ll be happy, but I’m not going to rave about my experience to anyone.

If you’re a private counselor or another kind of small business owner, you’re doing business even before the transaction happens.  Is it easy for me to find your contact information on your website?  Do you list your email address (or do I have to fill out a long online form to ask you a question)?  Do you answer your phone when I call?  Do you get back to me quickly when I leave you a message?  Do you make it easy for me to hire you and pay you?  Do I feel good when I make that decision? 

The way you deal with potential customers tells a story about how you run your business.  Design your business the right way, and people will actually rave about you even before they hire you.  Imagine if the owner of this house had given me this story to tell:

“I sent the owner an email, and he called me back in 30 minutes.  He answered all my questions, sent me some additional pictures of the place that weren’t up online, and offered to hold it for me for 48 hours while I made up my mind.  The next morning, I sent him my credit card number, and I got a reply right away with my confirmation, a receipt, a great list of all the stuff that’s included at the house, some suggestions of items I should bring, and his personal recommendations for the best restaurants in town.” 

He’d have had a happy customer, a rented house, and my money a lot faster.