Service” is a noun, a verb and a calling. If you believe that last one, there’s a hidden version of service that will make some of you bristle. But first.

We all rail at the car repair place that forgot it was wrong to charge someone $480 for headlight fluid and waxing the spare tire. Their antics go on public display in negative reviews. 

We are irked at the cable company that told us to wait “sometime between this Tuesday and next April” for the cable dude to appear and hit the red reset button.

We go murderous at being transferred to four different “Customer Disservice Representatives” to tell the exact same story. Each transfer grinds on with 10 minutes of recordings saying they are “presently serving other customers.”

Then there is a hidden version of bad service where we’re not told that for a little more money we could’ve gotten what we actually wanted. It’s called selling — or upselling — and it is also a service.


How not to choose a contractor

A while back I had a minor house “freshening” where nearly every tradesperson in town stopped by to shake me upside down while readying our previous home for a historic tour.

In essence, the “I can do it cheaper” guys all reeked of incompetence. The beat-up truck, the lack of a business card, a logoed estimate or invoice, the uncertainty of what was included, and the “I’ll get back to you” all added up to something hugely avoidable. I do not flaunt overspending, but I do like value. Service, dear friends, is value.

The tradespeople who offered decipherable tiered pricing generally got me to the 2nd or 1st level of their offer. The smart landscaper correctly identified my wife’s ‘pain’ and offered a nearly do-it-all service at roughly double the ‘mow, blow and go’ guy while she gets to work on the fun part of landscaping. (To me, the fun part of landscaping is seeing it done by someone else.)


A profitable perspective

I tell you these things to encourage you from a homeowner’s perspective. Tell them what solves their problem, even if it’s not the way you or your techs buy. That doesn’t matter. You solve the problem, and a few more while you’re at it, charging as is appropriate. That’s not “just” selling because, friend, good selling is service.

The poor contractor that helped us at our lake house just never ‘got it.’ Every year — we didn’t live there year-round until recently — I’d ask, “Do you have a maintenance program so I won’t have to think about this?” and the answer was the same: “Nope. Might get one. Just call us when you need us.”

I’d respond, “Can you put it on your calendar to remind me?” and they’d say, “Well, we could do that, I guess,” more like it was an imposition than an agreement. And did they ever call me? Not once in five years.

Dumb me. I thought they were the only game in town, since it is kind of remote.

Then I saw a billboard — an utterly low-tech piece of marketing — that had another company’s name that services the area. Professional logo, good tagline and a memorable phone number. So my wife called.

Oh, my.


Dollars, dreams and sales delivery

The company was founded three years ago by two young and motivated friends with a vision. Now they have a handful of eager employees catching that vision, one of whom showed up exactly on time in a clean truck and wearing a crisp uniform.

My wife was elated. The employee was courteous and complimented my wife on keeping a neat home. He said he understood how hard it was to maintain a house by long distance and remarked that doing this well was a lot harder than most people realize. (Can you hear the “sale as a service” setup coming?)

She asked, “Do you have a maintenance program?” At this point, the harp music started, and a chorus broke through the sunlit clouds as he answered: “Yes. Which level do you think you and your husband would prefer?”

I ended up out about $840 in total. My next-door neighbors — who had identical complaints — are customers now, too. And the company that never ‘got it’ will soon be wondering why an ever-increasing number of customers on this side of the lake don’t call them anymore.

Selling — even upselling — is a service. Let no one tell you differently.