Sometimes we learn important lessons when we least expect them.
Like that time in 1980 at the drive-in when I learned what happens after too many cans of PBR. One minute I was watching Kentucky Fried Movie and laughing myself silly with a bunch of friends. Next thing ya know – I was on my knees in the gravel and making deals with God.
Something about never, ever, doing that again.
As a copywriter and editor, I wouldn’t expect to learn much from an air-conditioning contractor or someone in the hotel industry. What could they possibly teach me about my business?
But it turns out they can teach me a lot. Because no matter what business you’re in, it all comes down to customer service.
The AC saga started about three weeks ago when The Wife texted on a Friday afternoon to tell me the house was warm. That was really sucky news, because the system had been on borrowed time for a few years. And when you live in Central Florida, AC is something you don’t want to be without.
So I called Brite Electric, the air-conditioning contractor I’ve been using since 1997. They know the system … I trust them … and I knew they would be straight with me.
This time it wasn’t just a bad capacitor or fried circuit board. It was the compressor. The Big Kahuna of any air-conditioning system. I was screwed.
So we got a shiny new box out behind the garage – and the opportunity to write a check for about four grand.
After Bill the Installer left, the house cooled down nicely and everyone had a good sleep. The next morning, I got a call from one of the owners of Brite Electric. She wanted to make sure the house was comfortable and everything was OK.
That was such an awesome customer-service gesture. It took only a couple minutes out of her day, but it meant the world to me.
LESSON: Follow up. Make sure you met your customer’s expectations. See if there is anything else you can do for them.
Two weeks after the new unit was installed, I received another call from the owner of Brite. She noticed they accidentally overcharged for a couple things during the install. So she was sending me a check for $281.73.
LESSON: Do the right thing even when no one is looking. Customers sense your integrity, and they will reward it. In my case, I reward Brite by sending them referral business.
A few days after the AC incident, I was doing some work for a major hotel chain while the management team was in Orlando. I spent a little time with the CEO and heard him talk about his bottom-up management style. In particular, he told me how much he values the housekeeping staff.
Unlike front-desk clerks, bellmen and the concierge, housekeepers are fairly anonymous – if not invisible. Yet the CEO of this chain considers them among his most valued assets. And he listens to them.
Because while a guest MIGHT overlook a less-than-ideal experience at the front desk, she won’t stand for a dirty toilet or streaked mirror. And no matter how swanky the lobby is, it’s a moot point if the bed isn’t made properly.
LESSON: Pay attention to every aspect of your customer’s experience. Take care of the little details, and people will come back for more.
If you want satisfied customers, it comes down to the old adage about treating people the way you would want to be treated.
And maybe give them a few PBRs to break the ice. But not TOO many PBRs.
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