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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.

“Remember, of all the elements that compromise a human being, the most important, the most essential, the one that will transcend, overcome and vanquish obstacles is – SPIRIT!” – Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003)

Uncle Jed, truer words have never been spoken! Think of how refreshing it is when we are the customer and we encounter a service provider with a pleasant can do attitude. Somehow our perception of an entire business is elevated since most positive people won’t tolerate either shopping, or working, in a negative environment for long.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” -  Thomas Edison

Do you ever notice how many people seem to have big plans, yet have very small accomplishments? You know the type. They are the ones who can always tell you what’s wrong, but are doing very little constructive to make positive changes. They’ll spend more time determining how to get around performing a task than the task itself would have required time to complete. These folks all seem to live in a different time zone. It’s called “Someday”.

Many successful flooring retailers spend a great deal of time mastering the art of making a great first impression when first greeting a customer in their showrooms. Clearly this is critical, but it’s important to remember that this is not the only opportunity to control first impressions. Let’s examine the opportunities to make positive impressions when the customer meets the installation staff. Remember, whether your installers are employees or contractors, the customer courtesies received should not be discernable, just the feelings of confidence conveyed.