Lessons for contractors to gain more customers

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I just finished up a year of traveling for business and have learned several lessons on the road. When I travel by plane, I am TSA Pre-check so I never need to stand in the long line waiting for the x-ray machines. There’s no need to pull my shoes off or take my computer out of the bag. I recently traveled from Phoenix, AZ and when I got to airport I discovered the Pre-Check line was down. In addition, there were about 150 people in line with only three lanes open and a forth is sitting vacant. At the end of this line was a sign that said, “Questions? Tweet TSA, @askTSA.” So I quickly pulled out my phone and sent over a question via twitter that said, “Why do we not have all 4 lines working and why is Pre-Check shut down?”

Before I got through the line I already have an answer from TSA. They came back and said that they try to match the expected load with staff, but missed the fact that the colleges in AZ were out for the holidays that added to the additional traffic. They did say that they were working to get extra help and had a guy walking the line asking people if their flight was leaving in the next 30 min. If so, they would move that person to the front of the line. So they were pro-active in doing what they could to help out.

I went through the line and got my computer out along with my toiletries and proceeded through the scanner. I then put my toiletries back in my bag and walked away without my computer. I realized this tremendous error when my flight landed in Denver and was not feeling good about this turn of events. Once again, I pulled out my phone and tried the TSA twitter account again. This time I tweeted, “Help, left my computer at terminal 2 in Phoenix, what do I do?”

They tweeted back and asked the time I was at the terminal, the date, and which terminal etc. After I replied, they said someone would call me when they located my computer. A lady called the next morning and said she had my computer. I arranged for it to be picked up and everything was all right in the world. I realize the TSA group is not always our favorite friends when we travel but when I needed them most. They were there for me using the latest technology and responding to my needs.

I stayed at a Marriott hotel called the Epicurean, a boutique hotel and gave my rental car to a valet to park. When I went to check out, I gave the attendant my claim check and went back in to settle up my stay at the front desk. The attendant pulled up and parked my car outside and ran out to get another car. When he came back by I asked for my keys but he did not have them. They were in his hand when he locked up my car but left them in another car. So I immediately thought, “My rental car is locked and the keys may be anywhere in the parking lot or possibly on the way to the airport in someone else’s car.” In addition, he cannot remember exactly where he left them. I had a flight home in a couple of hours so I was a little frustrated.

Then enters Genevieve Wojick, the front desk clerk who had helped me check out. She had seen me out front and noticed that I had not left yet and came out to see if everything was OK. She was cool and calm and told me not need to worry, she would handle everything. She said she would arrange for the car to be towed or a second set of keys delivered to get the rental car back. She also would get me a ride to the airport and let the rental car company know what was going on and that the hotel would handle any extra charges and I would not miss my flight home.

As she was calling a cab, the attendant came running back in and said he found my keys! I was so impressed that she had the ability to work past this potentially huge problem and handled it with such a calm manner that provided comfort. She was the “voice of reason” for me during this problem. Marriott does a great job in hiring people to work their hotels and she is a testimony to going the extra mile.

After arriving at the airport, I put my phone down on the scanner to read my boarding pass as I boarded the flight. The United Airlines gate agent said, “Thanks for flying with United Mr. Hinshaw.” I listened in amazement as she called out the people behind me by name as well. That has only happened one time before in my travels and it sure makes an impression.

As I boarded the plane, a tall flight attendant named Sylvia welcomed me aboard. She had a distinctive accent and I asked her where she was from. She responded “Germany.” She saw a young mom coming down the isle with a baby and child seat that was having a hard time. Sylvia said, “Let me help you.” She quickly grabbed the child seat and walked her to her isle. Coming back, she saw an elderly woman about 5 foot tall looking up at the bins wondering how she would get her bag up that high. Sylvia took the bag and hoisted it up for her pleasantly without a problem. That made me feel good about flying United.

So how does this apply to you and your business as a contractor? Do you equip your front line (or actually any employee) to handle a situation when something comes up you didn’t plan on? I am confident that Genevieve’s hotel manager did not have a “what do we do when the keys are lost” drill. I’m quite certain the manager does have a customer service policy that says “Make a decision in the best interest of our customers and we’ll figure it out later!” He assuredly gives them the authority to make things happen, and in my case, it eased my mind completely. What happens when a routine plumbing install doesn’t go as planned? For instance, what happens when someone from your team steps through a ceiling or damages adjacent mechanical equipment? The truly impressive companies today have a system and policy in place to work through those opportunities when they occur, not if they occur. And I said correctly, opportunities not disasters. A real chance to show your customer whether you and your company have honest integrity to take care of them and own your own mistakes. A chance to build complete and total trust if handled respectfully and properly. Good companies actually plan on a problem arising, sort of like a fireman training for a house fire. They train to put out fires with an actual burning building, not just by reading a manual.

What can your team do to make that customer seem special? Make it a goal this year to do more than just what is on the proposal, make the customer feel like you are looking to serve them, not just make a profit. Then your customer will know that you and your company are going to do whatever is necessary to provide the best service and install the best products in their home or building. When you go the extra mile and deliver more than what they expected, most customers become raving life-long fans that tell others about your company. Your customers are your best marketing team if you please them. They tell neighbors, friends, and share it on social media like Facebook.

So sit down with the entire company and ask them how they can make customers feel better by doing business with your company. Don’t have time? You might want to make time because some of your competitors are doing that today. If not, your customer may simply decide to work with your competitor instead in the future. Or you may turn them into life-long partnerships that will make your business grow and keep your customers happy at the same time.

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