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Sunday, March 15, 2009
Volume 14 | # 332
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Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny. » Kin Hubbard

You Following Me Here?

My wife and 10-year-old son decided recently that he is ready for a bigger bed. My argument that I slept in one the same size as the one he has now in college didn’t seem to sway anyone. So, we headed to furniture stores.

As usual, all of the stores had salespeople hovering near their front doors. I’m always interested in observing these folks. Some seem truly happy to show you around. Others just want to spend enough time with you to give you their card.

You know the type. “Hey, I’m gonna head back to my coffee. But look around and be sure to ask for me by name if you want to buy something.”

I started paying more attention to this quest when I realized that the cost of this bed and mattress was going to be more than my first car. Granted, a used Plymouth Fury III wouldn’t be practical in a kid’s bedroom. (But it did sleep 7 adults. Just saying.)

After several stores, we narrowed our choices to three different beds. All were pretty similar in style and price, and my son didn’t have a strong preference. Then, the tiebreaker arrived in the mail two days later.

We had chatted with several nice folks while shopping various stores. One was a cordial older gentleman named Percy. He admitted that he was relatively new to the job, but he did his best to find us whatever information we needed. He was personable and seemed genuinely happy to help us. Before we left, he asked if my wife would like to register for a chance to win something or other. She did (of course). And thus, he got our address.

The thing that came in the mail was a short, handwritten note to my wife thanking her for giving him the opportunity to help us. He also wrote that he hoped we’d come see him again in the future.

He got his wish today when my wife went in and ordered the bed. When folks have similar offers to choose from, small gestures can make a big difference. In this case, making the effort to follow-up with a simple note was the thing that differentiated Percy and his store from the pack.

With all of the money some businesses spend on advertising and promotions, I’m amazed at how many drop the ball on the easy, inexpensive but powerful gesture of simply following-up after initial conversations. Out-of-sight is indeed usually out-of-mind. Who are you following-up with today?

A Little "Free" Advice

I had an interesting chat this week with a young computer technician. Before it was over, I was laughing at myself for unintentionally sounding like an “old fogy.” (“Old school” sounds better.)

My conversation began when the 20-year-old-ish tech dropped off a computer that he had repaired for me. When he called his office to get my credit card approved, I noticed he had an iPhone. After his call, I asked him how he liked it.

He told me how much he liked the phone and began demonstrating its features, including several “apps.” These apps are programs that you can buy for the phone that do pretty amazing things. Some are free. Most (the cooler stuff) cost only a buck or two. But there are folks making a good living these days creating simple, ingenious, silly, ridiculous, time-saving, and/or time-killing programs.

I asked the young tech how much he had paid for one of the apps on his phone. He chuckled, “Uh, I don’t pay for them. There are sites that have cracked the codes. You can get any app for free -even the ones that Apple charges for.” What kind of bothered me was that there wasn’t the slightest hint that he considered getting “pirated” programs wrong.

I kidded, “Dude, it’s a dollar. Some guy put a lot of work into that stuff. If you use it, shouldn’t you toss him a buck for the effort?” He laughed, but… not in a way that suggested he got my point.

I couldn’t resist going a little farther. I asked, “You like working on computers?” “Yeah, it’s what I’ve always loved doing,” was his reply. I asked if he does it for free. He kind of stammered, “Well, I, uh, sometimes fix my friends’ stuff for free.” Holding his company’s not-inexpensive invoice in my hand, I said, “But your company needs to charge for what you do in order for you to get a paycheck, right?”

The next laugh was one that did suggest he got my drift. As he left, he smiled and said, “I guess I could spare a couple of bucks for these things.” Yeah, I know he was pulling my leg. But I appreciated him humoring the old…uh… older guy.

Look, I’m definitely all for “free stuff” when it’s meant to be free. And good grief, banks do offer quite a bit for free. But we may need to remind our own teams now and then about why we charge the fees that we do when we do. When our folks grasp the value in what they offer, they’re better positioned to explain (and even defend) fees when need be.

The higher up you go, the more mistakes you're allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered your style. » Fred Astaire

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