Friday, November 19, 2010

Are You In The People Business, Or A Commodity

Customer service is a mindset. It takes thinking of your customers first and really, truly caring about people. It's easy to spot companies that are not in the "people" business.
A few weeks ago I had such an encounter with a car rental company. I don't want to name them (although the name rhymes with Avis), but here is the story:
About a week before my rental I reserved the car for a $100 rate (for two days, picking up the car at 9am). I was actually running early the day I picked up the car and arrived at 8:30am, 30 minutes before my reservation time. I asked to pick up my car.
I was told I could not pick up the car at 8:30am at the $100 rate. If I wanted the car a 1/2 hour early it would cost an additional $90 (for the 1/2 hour). I was a bit taken back. I offered to bring the car in a 1/2 early if that helped. No, I was told. You need to have a seat in the corner and wait 30 minutes. I wasn't alone in the corner. One guy was sitting there for two hours.
So, here is a company that instead of taking care of their customer, tells me to sit in a corner for 30 minutes. Now, I was certainly a 1/2 hour early and I'm sure Avis doesn't want people showing up hours before arrival. However, I am a paying customer and this was an opportunity to become a hero.
Avis took that opportunity and blew it up.
Some rental car companies are in the "serving people" business, while others are in the renting car business. Take, Enterprise, for example. It's slogan says it all, "We'll pick you up." Enterprise employees will take time out of their busy day to pick you up and return you when you return. Is it profitable to be shuttling customers around? No. But they want to take care of their customers. That company is in the "people" business.
When you are not in the "people" business, you've become a commodity. At that point, who cares what business you are in!
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Thinking Differently Can Lead To Sales

I've always believed that business, like sports, is a game of inches. What separates one successful entrepreneur from one that fails isn't much. In fact, the entrepreneurs that are willing to go against the grain and embrace new ideas are usually the ones standing at the end of the day.
Today I met with entrepreneur Mike Wilcox, president of Vivid Cleaning, a commercial cleaning company.
Mike just recently began his company and is going through the hard work of building clients. An entrepreneurial friend had an interesting idea for Mike: "Why not contact the biggest competitor in the marketplace and ask for a meeting. Maybe he can help you or you can help him." Mike's first thought was, "that is totally ridiculous. Why would I contact my biggest competitor?"
After some hedging, Mike finally took his friend's advice and called the largest competitor in the market. The owner agreed to meet Mike for breakfast and the two had a very nice conversation. The Big Company owner liked Mike so much he began mentoring him and sending him clients. Yes, sending him clients. You see, there are certain smaller jobs the larger firm just can't make profitable. Instead of saying no, the company now sends the prospects to Mike.
Mike is not only getting some mentoring, he's also gaining some clients. The large company owner is getting the satisfaction of helping a local entrepreneur, and he no longer has to say NO to prospects that have jobs too small to handle. A win-win for everyone.
Business: It's a game of inches.
--Ron Ameln, SBM