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How Can I Make You Prefer Traveling By Horseback Today?

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I just flew back from a speaking engagement. It was a rewarding and fun time, but as this small part of my business life of public speaking can be, it was exhausting.

My last changeover in Atlanta was very tight. However, after a swift train ride and a sprint for the gate for a scheduled 10:45 pm departure, I skidded to a stop at my gate only to see the status board announce: “DELAYED: DEPARTURE 11:20 pm.” I thought, whew I made it. A small crowd of significantly bored people flipped through magazines in the waiting area.

So I grabbed my iPad, went to an adjacent restaurant for a glass of water and to rest. At 10:58, I walked back to my gate to board. Only to find, as I looked in horror the entire waiting area was empty! Reeling in denial, I asked the gate attendant if they were through loading the passengers yet. She replied “Oh, they left. You weren’t here, and they left.” Her concern for me was similar to that of a cantaloupe, yet with less expression.

The rest of this story is for mature audiences, or those who’d like to reach their destination on the airplane for which they purchased a ticket.

I just stood there, stunned, tired, and disbelieving this was happening. I was there 22 minutes before their announced time, but the plane was gone. I expressed myself in a now- embarrassing tone of voice asking, “Why didn’t you page the nearby area to let people know you were leaving early?”

The Delta attendant (Motto: “We dehumanize everyone equally! Care for a pretzel?”) said, and I promise this is true, “We only page in the immediate area.

“So,” I asked through mildly-clenched teeth, “You only page to locate people who are already here?” She failed to see the irony. I failed to be able to bring the plane back. So I rented a car, bleary-eyed at midnight, and drove the 3 hours home.

After a series of laughably ineffective emails with their “Customer Disservice Department,” several people in charge of alienating passengers chose to toss a meaningless number of SkyMiles my way to “make it better.”

Let’s get this straight: They burned time trifling over peanuts – almost literally – with a legitimately discontented customer at a cost in “real company” dollars (salary and silliness) and “real sales” dollars. They did this for – all together now – “Customer Service.”

I’m not “mad” at Delta. I’m sad that corporate idiocy hires teams of people to deliver thoroughly neutered results.

Remember Folks: In this age, information directivity has “turned and multiplied”, so customers control the message by controlling ‘their’ version of your publicity.
Facebook’s customer review sites, sends emails to thousands, virally-damaging videos and discussion boards that can all work gravely against bad service. (Or ‘for’ good service as you’ll see below.)

Yet pitiful platitudes (“…sorry we weren’t able to deliver the measure of service and quality you had previously come to expect from our airlines”) need an air sickness bag all their own. In stark contrast…

Two Customer Service Efforts Earned Me as a “Fan for Life”

#1: Luggage Lust. I received a Kenneth Cole luggage set two Christmases ago. I love it and abuse it. Not intentionally, but it goes from being empty in a sweltering attic to “all-you-can-eat buffet” overloaded, to rolling across varying terrain, clomping down escalators, and being heaved into a rented trunk. In other words, a hard life.

So, not unexpectedly, a wheel came off. I was in a very crowded Denver airport, pulling said case when it suddenly did an imitation of a three-legged dog on a jogging leash and almost pulled me face-first into the breast region of a complete stranger. I glanced back to see the wheel skip off into darkened grossness under a vending machine.

I contacted Kenneth Cole to compliment them on luggage that had withstood so much, and to purchase a replacement wheel. Their response:

“We are happy to have you as a customer, and are very sorry for the inconvenience. Regardless of treatment, that shouldn’t have happened. So, I can send you a full set of replacement wheels, or you can take the bag to a qualified service facility for repair and we’ll reimburse you.”

Which they did. I kept the email, and the luggage, and they kept my loyalty.

#2: Watch This. I ordered a Victorinox watch from, a site specifically built for impulsive, easily-distracted watch and jewelry buyers. This is my daily watch. Stainless, tough, and waterproof.

I “do things” to automobiles almost every weekend wearing this watch, then wash the grime off and wear it through the week. After a year’s faithful service, the bracelet broke. (I believe it was trying to escape.) I contacted Victorinox, was complimentary, and asked if I should send it to them for repair or would they recommend someone locally. I didn’t have any idea about the warranty. They responded:

“We consider that a malfunction that could’ve caused you to lose your watch, which we expect to last for many years. I have overnighted a replacement bracelet. Thank you for contacting us and I hope we can serve you again.”

I just bought another watch.

Customers are the new currency. Relationships are the new revenue. Build them, and your business builds itself.

As contractors, you have many opportunities for exemplary customer service. Only a small percentage requires “saving” like these examples. It’s mostly done on the front end by doing what you say, when you say, and exceeding expectations at all reasonable points. If you do this, you will be so far advanced from the “normal” contractors out there that no one could ever “go back” to the other contractors.

Raise the bar. You may find you’re the only one on it.

Adams Hudson

Posted In: Building Performance, Sales & Marketing

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