In my November article, we reviewed the need to establish a set of “core values” to set a company’s identity. They may have seemed to be common sense to many people, but the reality is simply that we can never assume any level of a consistent value system. The examples listed in the article were all demonstrative of situations that we may meet at any time. However, that is part of the fallacy in developing the proper programs since they were all reactionary. Instead, we need to have programs and a proactive culture in place.
So how do we start? First, a company that defines its identity on the specific abilities of a trade has lost the battle before it even begins. A bit confusing? Your goal should not be to become the best HVAC company in your town. Your goal must be to become the BEST overall company in all areas, the employer of choice, the best corporate citizen, the best in customer service, and so much more. Homeowners expect you to be the best in your trade. It is the cost of doing business. When was the last time you saw a competitor’s ad saying, “Hire us – we are pretty average in what we do!” Never! Everyone claims they have the best technicians. Words are just words – actions, performance and experiences are all that matter. To break free from the pack, you must differentiate yourself from others.
In the past, we claimed that a neutral experience for a customer had little value, but if they had a good experience, they would tell three to five people. Conversely, a lousy experience meant that up to 10 people would be told how badly they were treated. Now with social media, we could multiply that number by 10 or more.
This brings us to my promised discussion of Lagniappe from last time.
A lagniappe is “a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase,” or more broadly, “something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.” You can use it more generally as meaning any extra or unexpected benefit. Wikipedia
Using a bakery is an excellent example.
You go into a bakery and buy 12 donuts. You pay for them and receive 12 donuts. You are satisfied but tell no one about it since it is a neutral experience. You go into a bakery and buy 12 donuts. You pay for them and receive 10 donuts. You are angry and you tell everyone that they ripped you off. It is a bad experience. You go into a bakery and buy 12 donuts. You pay for them, but a sign says, “Baker’s dozen free day – buy 12 and get one free.” You receive 13 donuts. You are satisfied but it’s no big deal since you received what they advertised. You may tell one person since it was a good deal but the expected experience.
We want to experience the experience of lagniappe. You go into a bakery and buy 12 donuts. You pay for them and receive 12 donuts. However, as you are leaving, the baker comes from behind the counter and says he appreciates you as a customer and gives you a bag of fresh, hot, delicious beignets. It is a total surprise. You feel special and tell everyone you meet. It was a great experience.
So, what do donuts have to do with air conditioning!
Primary lesson – we are not in the business of fixing boxes – we are in the people experience business. Resolve; therefore, we must fix all their real and perceived issues and have your customers feel a genuine bond with you.
As a practical example, all my technicians look for that something extra in the home to help the customer (at no charge, of course). They carry extra light bulbs and offer to change any lights that are out as a convenience. We will apply a coat of wax (or detailer) to the condensing unit. Customers enjoy seeing the unit looking like new and protected from rust. We have walked the homeowner’s dogs on long jobs if they could not make it home. If they are elderly, ask if you could help with small items such as pulling out the refrigerator to clean behind it, or putting up a box on a shelf. Many small items take no time, cost nothing, and make the homeowner feel that you care about them.
Finally, with COVID, be sure you respect their health and follow every protocol, from masks and sanitizer to social distancing. Do not assume they are OK with any shortcuts.
The bottom line is that every person on your team understands they are in the business of creating “More than Satisfied” customers if they wish to be the best of the best.
Stay tuned for the next article, where we discuss the true meaning of setting and attaining goals.
David Dombrowski started his career with 15 years at GE with their international leasing division and then joined Ron Smith original team with Service America. He holds a Master HVAC license holder for North Carolina for the past 35 years and has been in the management team with ARS of Raleigh, a $30 million location. Married for 42 years he is the proud father of three daughters and 2 grandchildren
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