Delight Your Customer Today, Enjoy Profits Tomorrow

May 31, 2011

I enjoy Steve Denning’s writing, and my personal opinion is that he makes astute observations and provides clear, solid advice. Like pointing out in his presentation, Making the Entire Organization Agile that we need to shift from producing outputs to delighting the customer.

He’s right, delighted customers will not only bring their business back to you, they will tell others, and in this Internet age of social media there’s real value in having a larger percentage of promoters versus detractors. This is why many companies are paying greater attention to their Net Promoter Score® metric.

I’m writing this post in my living room, sitting in a chair facing our gas fireplace insert as I pound away on my laptop. When we first bought the house, the fireplace was a conventional fireplace, but my wife and I decided to buy a gas insert – which leads me to my detractor example.

We shopped for our insert at all the local stores, and found one that we really liked at a company that also sold above-ground swimming pools. Coincidently, we were thinking about a swimming pool for our back yard (we didn’t want to go through the extra expense of putting in an in-ground pool since Maine has a short swimming season). Needless to say, this company had an opportunity for some easy, extra wallet-share.

They talked a great game. They had installation technicians that would install everything including the ductwork, capping our chimney and installing the propane tank on the side of our house. They came to our house and did a quick site inspection and said, “No problem!” One-stop shopping sounded perfect to me. We even had them check out our back yard and talked about the possibilities for a pool.

And then came the installation day. The owner of this company had a philosophy that was unknown to us when we bought the fireplace insert. To him, it was all about making that sale. Once the sale was done, he wanted the installation performed as quickly as possible by doing the least amount of work. For him, it was a volume business and making that next sale.

This translated into some things that would have put me on the war path with this company if my wife (bless her) hadn’t been able to reason with the technicians to get them to “go above and beyond” their boss’s instructions. And by above and beyond, I’m talking about simple things. Like not running a power cord across the living room floor and plugging it into the closest available outlet, but routing it down the chimney so that it was concealed. (The power cord was for the blower in the gas insert.)

Another “above and beyond” for them involved installing the on/off switch. They weren’t going to do it, but instead they planning on us using a secondary switch located behind the bottom panel of the gas insert – requiring that the customer (us) to kneel down, drop the panel and reach in to flip the fireplace on and off. They were going to leave the place for the standard switch empty, which was clearly not what the manufacturer intended.

Meanwhile, on the outside of the house, their counterparts were hard at work placing the propane tank in soft dirt, right behind some shrubs located in front of the house and extending to the side where the propane tank was being placed. At least this was the logical place, as it was the shortest path to the fireplace and the gas line conveniently went through the one section of the basement that we didn’t have finished.

Had they requested it or even discussed it with me during their site inspection, I would have prepped the outside, clearing away the soft dirt and laying down some type of slab. But they didn’t and went ahead and did their thing, and we didn’t catch it until the job was completed because we were dealing with the technicians on the inside of the house. I shook my head when I saw it, but they reassuringly said, “Just give us a call if you run into any problems.”

I did the following year because the tank shifted during the spring thaw and was clearly stressing the gas line. They fixed it and then billed me for it, which led to a heated argument where they blamed me for not telling them – the “experts” – that they were making a mistake when they were performing the installation.

The opportunity for this company to obtain additional wallet-share from us vanished – the next year we bought a 30x15 above-ground pool from someone else that we were very happy with. And any time that I’ve talked to someone who is considering a gas fireplace, I always fill them in on our experience – which isn’t unique with this company (I’ve come across others with similar stories). I’m a committed detractor.

Was I expecting everything for free? No. But if this company had a philosophy of delighting the customer, they would have had a conversation with us during their site inspection. Like talking about how power needed to be routed so that we wouldn’t have an ugly extension cord running across our floor, what our options were and what it would cost; likewise on preparing the ground on the side of the house for the propane tank. And it should have been an automatic to install the on/off switch!

While this example sounds clear-cut and obvious, keep in mind that I’m providing it from a customer’s perspective. The business owner had his idea of what worked. In other scenarios, subtleties certainly can come into play. But if your focus is on “making money” first and foremost, you might be not be having the right conversation with your customer, and more than likely you are overlooking critical concerns that can make all the difference to your customers today and your profits tomorrow.


davearonson said...

Old saying: if a customer is happy, he may tell a few people; if a customer is UNhappy, he will probably tell the world!

May 31, 2011 at 6:51 PM
Dave Moran said...

@davearonson A true piece of wisdom! People who feel wronged have more incentive to blast you. And they have to feel more than just satisfied to actively promote you.

June 1, 2011 at 6:41 AM

This is true for different industries. See to it that you provide the right level of service.

March 2, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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