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Extraordinary service? Don’t kid yourself…

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but I seem to be hearing a lot lately from business owners who say “What really makes us special is our people.” “We have an extraordinary team.” Or the first cousin to that claim –“Our service is incomparable.  We always go above and beyond the call.”

Please forgive my bluntness when I say that’s a load of crap.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m 100% in support of motivation and leadership, and I have no doubts in your ability to grow and nurture a great team. If you’re looking for a positive attitude, and a belief in your people, I’ll be at the front of the line; I’ll be the first to jump on stage and lead the chant of “why we’re the best.” Delivered with enthusiasm and a winning smile.

But that’s not a message for your prospects.  That’s a message for your people.

Years ago, I worked for a very wise vice-president of a global service organization who noted that “If you work your butt off every day, and do everything you possibly can to satisfy your customers, the best you can ever hope for is to break-even.”

That’s because in service, you can either accomplish the task (“meet expectations”), or fail to accomplish the task (“did not meet expectations”).  And in the pool industry, just about everything we do is a form of “service.” When you succeed, you give them what they paid you for. As a general rule, it’s not highly memorable, no matter how many hoops you had to jump through to get there.

When you fail, on the other hand, no matter how rare it is, it’s highly memorable. And that’s when your customers start to tell their friends what they think of you.

Hey – This is not a sad story. Don’t give up on me yet.

I’ve often pointed out that in the pool industry (and most other industries), the best source of new business is referrals. Lower cost per lead, and a higher closing ratio. So let’s leverage this knowledge to help you get more business.

The way you get referrals is by winning over the hearts and minds of your customers.  And the way you win their hearts and minds is not by promising them that you’re perfect, but by being there as a trusted friend when the crap inevitably hits the fan.

How do we do that? By building a relationship.

We know from scientific studies that the rate of human error is typically between 0.5% and 5%, depending on the task. So obviously, in the course of daily business, mistakes will be made. Let’s not pretend that we’re “perfect” or “extraordinary.” People know better. Let’s focus instead on giving your customers what really they want – someone they can trust.

Here are a few suggestions that will help you to be “memorable” and “referral-worthy” without bragging about it in your advertising:

  • Send a heartfelt “thank you” card to each of your clients, no matter what business you’re in.  (Personally, I could be doing a whole lot more of that….)
  • Send an unexpected gift, commensurate with the product they bought from you.  (For new pools and renovations, I’m a big fan of the tastefully monogrammed Fat Towels at www.FatTowels.com. For the service industry, an inflatable beach ball or a couple of low-cost “super soaker” squirt guns with your logo will score you a lot of points, especially if your technician leaves it behind as a surprise gift after a service call.)
  • Send your pool clients a photograph of them standing by their new swimming pool. People photos seem to go a long way towards solidifying relationships.

The thank-you cards can be especially effective in generating new business if you combine the photograph with your personal, heartfelt message, and then you repeat that process year after year, on the anniversary of the new pool completion.

We’ve found an excellent semi-automatic system for generating custom thank you cards with personal photos and personal messages. Not only can you insert any photo you want, and write any message you want, but you can also set it up to send out a new card every year for the rest of your life.  By the way -   I’m not talking about one of those electronic cards. I’m talking about a real greeting card in a real envelope, mailed to their home address.

You can check it out and get a free demo at www.SendOutCards.com/mymaustin. We’re working on some new custom card designs that are especially friendly, entertaining, personable and memorable. At less than two dollars each, I think this is a great way to foster a relationship with those who mean the most to you.

Now let’s not forget that in addition to the above ideas, you’ve also got to be a conscientious business owner who truly cares about serving the needs of your clients.  But if you didn’t already feel that way, you probably wouldn’t still be reading this newsletter.

So here’s to your extraordinary success.

Best regards,
Brett

2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc.  May not be used without permission.

 

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