The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Monday, March 15, 2010
Volume 15 | # 356
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The higher up you go, the more mistakes you're allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them,it's considered to be your style. » Fred Astaire

Total Recall

I suppose the Toyota recalls have gotten all car companies a little jumpy. Recently, we received a recall on my wife’s vehicle. (It’s not a Toyota.)

When we arrived at the humorously titled “service” department, the first guy we encountered couldn’t find our appointment on their system. Instead of welcoming us and, you know, maybe acknowledging the hassle of a recall, he seemed bothered that we interrupted his morning.

After my wife assured him that we had received a confirmation call the previous evening, he called out to his partner-in-crime, uh… coworker. That guy had our information and came over to get the keys. Even before he opened his mouth, I was curious about two things. First, would anyone here say anything that remotely sounded like “sorry” for our inconvenience? The answer: nope.

Second, would these guys have the nerve to try to cross-sell us something while we were here? The answer: yup.

When the guy asked how many miles were on the vehicle and immediately began listing things that should be changed around that time, I literally started giggling.

I told him, “That’s okay. Just handle the thing you guys recalled.” He later called my wife at home, suggesting about $1,000 in maintenance they could do while our car was “on the rack.” We declined his kind suggestion and picked up the car later that day. Yet again, not a word from anyone acknowledging our inconvenience or thanking us for our business.

The funny (or sad) thing is that my wife has been shopping around for a new car. And she walked out of that place (which we were pleased with before) saying “I don’t think I’m coming here again.”

In this case, the problem and inconvenience were clearly their fault. Yet, they offered no apology. But even if a problem is a customer’s “fault”, smart service providers know to show empathy for a customer’s dilemma and make solving it their top priority.

We position ourselves best to ask a customer to consider another purchase when we show that our priority is making sure they are pleased with what we are already providing.  It’s when something goes wrong that customers truly find out whether all of our talk about service actually means anything.

When the next customer problem or misunderstanding comes your way, strive to provide service they’ll recall later.

Some Heavy Lifting Required

I’ve recently been reminded of what a noticeable impact even one employee can have on the atmosphere of a business and how customers perceive it. This particular employee is a college kid working part-time at the gym in my neighborhood.

The first time that I encountered him, I pegged him totally wrong. My initial guess was that he was going to be one of those guys who “worked” at a gym in order to work-out for free. Those guys are pretty common. They’re the guys who “sorta-kinda” work the front desk but mostly warm a chair between bull-sessions around the weight benches with their buddies.

About a month or so after this young man started, I began noticing differences in how “user-friendly” the gym was when the kid was on duty. For one, he doesn’t sit behind the counter much at all.

When the desk is quiet, he makes his way around the gym putting scattered weights and equipment in their proper places. If he finds that some muscle-head (that’s a scientific term) left 300 pounds of plates on a machine, he takes them off before someone gets hurt removing them. He just as often has a spray sanitizer with him and frequently wipes down the equipment that less-than-courteous folks leave in a pretty unpleasant state.

There is a night-and-day difference in the place when this kid is working compared to the other guys in that job. Before long, I found myself thinking, “Cool, the A-team is on today” whenever I walked in and saw that young man on duty. I’ve mentioned it to a few trainers and they all agree that their jobs are easier when he is on duty.

They don’t have to stop to find things or clean things before using them. It’s a nicer experience for them and their customers. The entire atmosphere of that not-exactly-small facility is improved by the efforts of one part-time employee.

At any given time, there are 10 trainers in there having an easier time doing their jobs because of the efforts of that one guy. I’ve hinted that they should tell him that now and then, and some have.

Who on your team makes your job easier (or even possible) by consistently doing their jobs better than they’d have to in order to simply get by? If you are able to count on their efforts without even thinking about it, it’s because they are.

Let them know now and then that you are as well.

Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better. » John Updike

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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