The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Volume 17 | # 395
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An easy task becomes difficult when you do it with reluctance. » Terence

Gauging a Service Culture

On my drive home from the airport recently, my tire gauge warning light illuminated. When I pulled over, I found that no tires seemed flat.

I realized the next morning that my tires were a little "long in the tooth" and decided to replace them.

A while back, my wife needed something checked on her vehicle. We brought it to a shop recommended by friends. When I picked it up, I was told that what we thought may be a problem was a very simple fix.

When I asked what I owed, the manager, Paul, told me, "I'm not gonna charge you. We didn't have to do much." My jaw may have hit the counter.

Needless to say, Paul and his shop got first shot at my new tires. When I called around, he was about $40 higher than the local mega-store. But his last gesture was worth at least that much to us.

I explained to Paul that the light had come on, but I didn't think it was accurate. When I picked up my vehicle later, Paul told me that the sensor wouldn't reset even after new tires. They had tried everything that works on most vehicles to no avail.

He said that the manufacturer says it may take 15 minutes of driving to reset. Maybe that would do it.

Then, he pointed to a 2-inch-thick manual dealing exclusively with tire sensors on his back counter. I laughed and said he was pulling my leg. He retrieved it and showed it to me. He asked me to come back in two days if it hadn't reset. He smiled, "We'll dive into this novel and try to crack the code."

The gauge didn't reset, and, truth be told, I wasn't that worried about it. My ancestors survived without tire sensors and so could I.

Three days later, I got a call from Paul. He said, "Mr. Martin, I just wanted to check if that sensor ever reset." I told him it hadn't, but I didn't blame him. I brought the car in for tires, not for a sensor problem. I wasn't worried.

He laughed, "Well, I appreciate that… but I consider that part of the job you paid for. We don't like our customers driving around with broken stuff on their cars. Bring it back next week or whenever you can, and give us a shot at figuring it out."

Paul knew that even if I didn't blame them for a problem, I still had a problem. And his call further established his shop as a problem solver. It's one of the few times a call from a mechanic made me smile.

Goodwill gestures and "check-ins" are some of the least expensive but most powerful marketing possible.

Who will you check-in with today?

Okay, Sign Me Up

I received a phone call this week from a really great guy. Bill is one of the most outstanding individuals you'll ever meet.

He's about 6'-2", 230 lbs, with a shaved head. He looks like he belongs in an MMA ring or bouncing at a biker bar. But he's one of the nicest and most pleasant guys around.

And if I had recognized the number flashing on my cell phone, I might have let it go to voicemail.

Because at this time of year, a call from Bill probably only means one thing. He is looking for coaches and referees for the upcoming basketball season of the church league my sons have played in for years.

When my kids began playing in the league several years back, I offered to help out where I could. My travel schedule is such that I'm hesitant to volunteer to be a coach, knowing I may miss weekday evening practices. That said, I end up coaching almost every year.

Long ago, one of my part-time jobs was refereeing basketball games. That was information I should maybe have kept to myself, as it made me an even more valuable resource to Bill. Volunteer coaches are tough to get. Volunteer referees with experience are even more so.

As soon as Bill began speaking to me, I knew that it wasn't a matter of "if" I was going to be helping out this year. It was only a matter of "how".

He began with, "Dave, I just wanted to find out how you were going to bless us this year. You're one of the coaches most requested by parents and the favorite referee of the other coaches."

I don't even know if any of that is true. But it was the nicest thing anyone had said to me that day. 

Over the course of a few minutes on the phone, I found myself smiling and marveling at Bill's skill at motivating folks and getting "buy-in". He talked about how much more kids learned about sports and life itself when upright adults taught them about rules, work ethics, teamwork and sportsmanship.

Here is a guy getting me to commit to working (volunteering) early morning hours on the one day a week in which I sometimes get to sleep in. And I ended up feeling pretty good about it.

He reminded me of why the work had value and that my efforts were appreciated. And at the end of the day, that is as much as most folks need to feel good about what they do – regardless of pay.

Will the folks you rely upon feel the same this week?

In my day we didn't have self-esteem, we had self-respect, and no more of it than we had earned. » Jane Haddam

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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