Standing Out From The Crowd
Those of you on the edge of your seat from last issue’s column (“A Boatload of Marketing,” July 2010) will be happy to know that my boat got detailed very well. Squeaky clean, reasonably priced.
However, the pin-striping job appears to have been done by several over-served and potentially blindfolded frat boys. Bonus: When you’re going flat out on the water, you don’t notice it. Much.
Doing something extra gets noticed.
This month’s column is for employees seeking to advance, managers seeking to advance, and all seeking to be remembered and referred by customers. Indulge me for a second…
With summer comes the memories of summer jobs - the first “real job” as a rite of passage. We all remember our first. Mine was, of all things, folding pants at a jean store for - get this - $1 per hour. Not a typo.
I was 14 and stupid (some traits stick around). I used my callous-inducing paycheck to buy fishing equipment. No lure ever attracted a fish any faster than it attracted me. So I wrote an article about fishing (illustrated too!) for Bassmaster magazine and sent it in. It had taken me two hours and I was paid $15. So, Mr. Big-Time Published Author at 14 had enough of folding pants.
Given that illustrious start, but having seen enough ding-a-ling know-nothings apply for, get and promptly fail at jobs, I decided to give my teenage son a bit of advice for his first job. Fathers do that, welcomed or not. He’d prefer I was vaporized and reincarnated as a large pepperoni pizza, but nonetheless, guidance was duly dispensed in the form of five things that get noticed by every employer and customer every time.
1. Do something extra.I suggested to my son that when his boss asks him to fill up his car, he also spend five minutes to check the air in his tires. When you return, tell him so. It’ll save him from having to do it, be greatly appreciated, and mostly it’ll stand out from others who are content just to “get by.” When he asks you to get his laundry, pick up a couple of coupons at the counter for him. If he asks you to drop off a package, ask if he needs you to get stamps too. And on it goes.
The world of employers is sick to death (but now complacently so) of “I’ll do the minimum to get paid, the maximum to avoid more work, and I dare you to confuse the two.” Those who do a little extra get noticed well beyond the effort expended, and are compensated accordingly. It is the same in your plumbing business, and customers notice. Some actually say “thank-you.”
2. The best two-word response to a thank-you is 'My pleasure.'Lifted straight from the courteous pages of the Chik-Fil-A customer-service handbook, this phrase beats the grunts, self-absorbed head nods, or darting eyes toward the next task any day. It lets people know you heard them and, moreover, that serving them is a joy. It’s supposed to be. If you say “service is drudgery,” then you’re likely in the wrong job. It’s a simple thing to educate and train your staff accordingly.
3. The best five-word question you can ever ask, once you've done what was requested, is 'Will there be anything else?'This is a question rarely heard from today’s minimally-expended workforce. In your business and mine, it is also the world’s most polite upsell. You never know when the response will be, “As a matter of fact, does your company…” and there’s the lead-in.
Regardless, it sends a message to your employer or customer (the same thing in a philosophical sense) that the request was fulfilled and if there are others, bring ’em on. A good signal to send.
4. Take a minute longer.Really, that’s about all it takes, potentially less, to display a caring sentiment. I asked my son to not rush to the door with the 5 o’clock cattle, but to spend a minute neatening, throwing away cups, turning off unneeded lights or appliances, checking his to-do list for anything that may need attention first thing the next morning. Should he see his frazzled boss, who’ll still be there for a couple more hours, he can ask, “Will there be anything else?” with a 95 percent likelihood of “No, thanks” and a 100 percent likelihood of being noticed as “someone who gives a rip.” He can walk out just after the rush, in less of a stress pile, feeling good about the day.
Can you do that with your customers? Can your tech ask the question, note the need and, if required, schedule a follow-up? Can your CSR do this and generate more leads and more work, while presenting a more “complete” service business to every caller? Can your techs, helpers or staff members learn this “service heart” and improve the culture of your business? Only you can answer. Finally, a shocker…
5. Learn something new.If you’re new at a job, find where everything is kept. Learn the phone extensions. Learn how the business was started. What does it sell, what are the goals, what are the milestones, how many employees, how many customers. A business is a living organism of many parts, thumping with the heartbeat of customers. Find it and listen.
If you’re seasoned at a job, learn “what’s next” for your responsibilities. Most simply, ask your boss, “In an ideal world, what skill would you like me to have?” and get ready. (This is the career-advancement version of the question in No. 3.) Same reactions apply.
If you serve customers, learn what they want from you. “In an ideal world, what service would you want us to offer?” You may find their answer is something you already do. Or you may find a common request for things you should be doing. Either is gold.
Basically, become a student of your work and you’ll never grow bored. And you can avoid being unemployed, stagnant or overlooked for very long.
To follow up on my boat-detailing job from last issue, when I went to pick it up, they’d done all I’d asked. It really was spotless. Since I’m a freak, I’d actually cleaned my truck for the occasion.
As I backed in to attach the trailer, an older gentleman whispered to the younger man helping out, who then piped up: “Hey, your truck is looking great, but the tires don’t look as good as your trailer does!” Laughter ensued. “I can fix that,” and in a flash, he carefully wiped down my tires, standing back to admire the work. He was right.
For five minutes “extra,” he and his mentor had earned another $10 each, probably what they earn per hour. Worth it to me for the outcome, worth it to them for the lesson that I hope they’ll pass along. Your customers are waiting.