When traveling domestically by air, unless you are traveling first class, “free” meals onboard have gone the way of the dodo bird in recent years. If food service is offered at all, many airlines now offer to sell you a glorified boxed snack for roughly $8-15. As a flight attendant was working her way down the aisle with her tray of croissants on a flight that I was on headed to Montana not long ago, the person seated next to me remarked “Who’d pay $11 for that?” My reaction was “Not too many years ago everyone on this plane would have.
Recently while having lunch, I observed an example that everyone in management should have witnessed. At an adjoining table, a service technician for a local automobile dealership was seated with the firm’s general manager. The manager proudly told the server that his companion had won a contest for having received the highest ratings during the previous quarter for customer satisfaction. His instructions were “he’s a winner - give him whatever he wants!”
Readers of a certain age will remember the television show WKRP in Cincinnati. One of the recurring gags in this sitcom was the imaginary door and walls around news director Les Nessman’s office. Upon approaching his desk, he would pause and turn the knob to his pretend door before entering his fantasy of a private office. He felt that he was too important to be sitting with the commoners. The joke was that he was mystified why no one else was impressed. It was funny when it was fictional.
While awaiting a Southwest flight in Phoenix not long ago, I struck up a conversation with an obviously veteran flyer. He mentioned that he was on three or four airplanes each week. I inquired of him the many ways that travel has changed in his years at his craft. Let’s just say that he didn’t find the experience to be generally more enjoyable as time has gone by!
A sale is lost to a competitor. It happens every day. Have you ever noticed how often the average salesperson, or estimator, seems to assign the blame to the customer? We’ve all heard the standard excuses: “we’re priced too high," “they found a color they prefer somewhere else,” or “the competition must not know what they are getting into." Far too often it seems as if the customer is somehow at fault for making an incorrect decision. I find this thought process to be terribly flawed.
Fans of the iconic band Chicago will recognize this as the title of one of their most famous songs. However, for most service based companies that I encounter, the answer is apparently not! I am certain that I am not the only customer who has grown weary of being delayed when trying to spend money with many companies.
I was visiting with a flooring dealer recently who stated “I just hate customers who complain!” Imagine his reaction when I responded “They’re my favorite type of customer." Obviously both of these statements did not reflect what we truly felt. He no more hated a customer than I preferred a disappointed one to a happy one. My point was that the majority of customers who are less than completely satisfied with your firm’s efforts will never say so – to you. What they will do, however, is tell everyone else that will listen!
When most supervisors, managers, officers or owners are asked why their business is successful, they will tell you that the strength of their organization is the quality of people that work for them. A great challenge, as well as great opportunity, is for a manager to show they value all members of their team.
To this end I would like to offer those in the flooring business a suggestion: institute a monthly “take an installer to lunch day!” Please notice that I didn’t say “buy his lunch” or “provide lunch”, but rather “take him to lunch”. Why do this you ask?
I have always felt that the very best marketing lessons are learned by observing others’ reactions to firms not in my field. As an example, recently I was having a conversation with my twenty eight year old daughter regarding her having some service work done on her vehicle. She was relating to me how nice it was to patronize a business that kept their appointed time. They explained to her what they would be doing and why it was important to have the work performed sooner rather than later. They advised her of the costs before they began working.
While casually watching a car race recently, I heard three-time NASCAR champion Daryl Waltrip make the statement that “sometimes you have to slow down in order to go faster”. He was referencing the fact that if you carry too much speed into a turn, you risk losing momentum going into the next straightaway. This results in going at a frantic pace, then slamming on the brakes to turn, then going like crazy again to regain the fast pace. This results in a tired car and race driver, seldom a winning combination.