The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Friday, January 01, 2010
Volume 15 | # 351
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You've got to think about 'big things' as you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction." » Alvin Toffler

It Keeps You Running

It Keeps You Running

I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions. But I had a funny conversation with one of my brothers-in-law over the holidays that had me thinking of a resolution worth making.


This brother-in-law runs marathons. To get ready for the season, he recently ran an 18-mile “warm-up” race. He failed to convince me to join him. The only thing that an 18-mile run would “warm me up” for would be a knee replacement procedure.

As it turned out, the friend he planned on running alongside was having a bad day. After a few miles of rather slow times, his friend encouraged him to run on ahead, and he did. The last 12 miles of the race had runners making several large loops. Because of this, there was a mixing of faster and slower runners towards the end of the race.

When he got within 3 miles of the finish, he felt that it was (figuratively) downhill from there. He didn’t feel all-that-bad and planned on coasting in.

As he was passing a woman about his age, she asked if he would run with her. Some folks need a running partner to keep them going. My brother-in-law said he was hesitant, but he felt bad for her.

Besides, he wasn’t shooting for a personal-best time or anything. So he slowed up and ran alongside her. What had me laughing was what happened next.

After thanking him for joining her, she began a nonstop monologue about how stupid the race was. Her husband had convinced her to run, and she would never listen to him again. Her feet hurt. Her legs hurt. Her arms hurt. She went on and on about how insane everyone was for doing this.

My brother-in-law said he longed for his iPod. Within a few minutes, he felt exhausted. His legs, feet, and arms began to hurt as well. He fought off the urge to ask her, “If you’re so tired, where are you getting all of the energy to complain from?”

He told me his new rule when running in the future is to do whatever he can to avoid complainers. And if he stumbles onto some, he’ll pick up his effort and run ahead of and away from them as fast as possible.

The pain of the extra effort isn’t as bad as the pain of having your mental and physical energy sapped from you by chronic complainers.

As sports analogies go, that’s a great one. In your race to achieve your personal goals this year, do whatever it takes to leave behind the complainers in your midst. You’ll be better off in the long run.

Maintaining Customer Trust

Maintaining Customer Trust

As we were preparing for a long drive over the holidays, I realized that the vehicle we were taking was overdue for an oil change. The one local repair shop we sorta-kinda trust was closed that day, so I hesitantly drove to a nearby national chain.

After telling the man at the counter what I needed, he asked if I was going to “drop off or wait.” I informed him that I’d be leaving the car. He looked at the clock (it was 10:00 AM) and said, “We’ll have you done for 2 o’clock.”

I said, “Two o’clock. Okay, I’m going to run errands. But I’ll plan on being back here for two. Sound good?” He replied, “Yes sir! Two o’clock it is. I’ll call you if we get to it early.”

Two o’clock came and went. At 2:30, I figured I’d give them a call to make sure my car was ready. When the guy answered, I gave my name and then had to remind him which car was mine. “Oh, we’ve got that one on the rack right now. Give me 30… 40 minutes tops and it will be ready.”

The sad thing was that I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t have the car ready or that he told me a tall tale about it. And he didn’t apologize for, or even acknowledge, that he hadn’t kept his word.

I couldn’t help but reflect on how many folks fail to grasp that when they prove non-trustworthy on “little things”, customers are simply not going to give them the benefit of the doubt on larger matters.

When I later picked up the vehicle, I was surprised that he didn’t give me the obligatory pitch for things I should consider having done to my car. When I later read the receipt, however, I saw an area that listed “Recommendations turned down by customer.” But he had not mentioned them to me.

I had to chuckle that he had given me written evidence that 1) his own company shouldn’t trust his word and 2) their “recommendations” are apparently as arbitrary and superfluous as customers suspect that they are.

These kinds of issues can seem trivial. Hey, it’s only a missed time guarantee, or a neglected phone call, or some other trivial commitment, right?

But to customers, the way you meet small commitments establishes whether they can trust you with anything more substantial. The upside is that when we consistently meet even small commitments, customers are more likely to trust us when the stakes are higher.

How confident can customers be that you’ll deliver what and when you say you will?


A paradigm is a word too often used by those who would like to have a new idea but cannot think of one. » Mervyn Allister King

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