21 Şubat 2008 Perşembe

Consistency, Referrals and Moving Day

A true parable that illustrates (yet again) the way people value consistency, and the way this information can help you enjoy a steady stream of qualified referrals,

My wife and I bought a new house last year, and one of my colleagues (let's call her Ann) referred me to a moving company she had used recently. She said that they had done a terrific job for her. My wife and I were looking forward to the same kind of treatment. Alas, in the moving business, apparently things are not always what they seem.

The Move

It's no secret that moving stinks at the best of times and my wife and I were grateful that we did not have to interview moving companies on top of everything else. Without looking at different options, I called the moving company and booked an estimate for a Saturday afternoon. After all, the company had been recommended to me by someone I trust.

The appointed hour for the estimate came and went, and yet no movers came. Finally, an hour and a half later, the head guy, "Brutus," called. "We are having a difficult day," he explained. "Could we rebook for Sunday?" he asked.

These things happen, of course, and I agreed. Sunday's appointment time in the early afternoon came and went, and yet no movers came. Six hours later (and without a courtesy phone call to explain the delay), Brutus showed up.

"A day to forget." Brutus muttered. "Our truck got stuck between two buildings."

"That is unfortunate," I said. "What I am having trouble understanding is why you couldn't find the time to make a 30-second phone call to let me know about the delay. Is this what I can expect down the road?"

"Maybe we should just forget about the job," Brutus said. That's when (and believe me, I do not need much of an invitation in this type of situation) Brutus got a "customer service tune-up"

Brutus Gets a Schooling He Didn't Request

In my front foyer, I explained to Brutus what I do for a living, and then I reminded him that my colleague had recommended him to me.

"Remember Ann?" I asked. "Have you ever stopped for a second and calculated how valuable Ann is to you?" I asked. Brutus really didn't answer that one, so I was happy to continue. "Right now in my office," I said, "is a lady who talks you guys up every time the conversation turns to moving or buying a new house. Let me translate that for you. I don't know how many moving companies there are in this town, but I didn't even bother to check the Yellow Pages. You were hired before I even called you. Isn't that neat?" Brutus grudgingly nodded a nod that seemed to indicate that, yes, that was neat.

The Best Business Call You Can Get

"Is there anything better than a phone call like that?" I inquired, "when the person calls your business and says, hi, you don't know me, but 'so and so' said that I should hire you." Brutus granted me another nod that seemed to indicate that yes, that was a pretty good deal. He was starting to come on-side.

"Well then, Brutus," I said, "Seeing as you seem to agree that you have a pretty sweet thing going here with this referral business, you should be warned that you are about to torpedo your own gravy boat." Brutus grimaced at my bad analogy.

"Here is the clincher, Brutus," I said, "You need to remember that the person who hires you based on a recommendation will probably being talking to the person who recommended you sometime in the next 30-60 days. This is as close as you can get to a sure thing. Sooner than later, Ann will be asking me how things went with my move and your company, and I will have one of two answers for her."

Here are the two possible answers:

1. "Ann, referring me to Brutus was the best thing you could have ever done for my move. I cannot thank-you enough. Brutus made me feel like a king. Have a piece of my Granny's homemade shortbread, Ann. Have two, in fact."
- or -

2. "Well Ann, things didn't go too well, actually. Brutus was late the first day and rescheduled, and then he was six hours late the second time. He didn't even call me to say he would be late. I guessed things have started to break down since you used Brutus' services. Thanks anyway, though, it's not your fault."

"Brutus," I continued, "I'm sure you realize that the first scenario is one where Ann feels just great because she was able to help out someone in her inner circle. It will probably inspire her to brag about you the next time someone talks to her about moving or buying a new house. If you treat me extremely well, I benefit, Ann benefits, and so do you!

"Or, there is that second scenario, Brutus," I said. "If you continue on your current path and continue treating your referrals in an inconsistent way like this, your referrals will dry up in a heartbeat. In that scenario, I recommend a name change to AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Moving and praying that potential clients travel alphabetically through the Movers section in the Yellow Pages." Brutus was beginning to see the light.

At Your Office

Although the preceding story of inconsistency is a little on the extreme end, one of the classic missteps we see in our work with professionals is that they start a decent customer service activity and then stops it after a while to try something else. However well intentioned, this is borderline insanity (to put it mildly). There are a variety of reasons for this bizarre behavior: Some want to 'mix it up' a little and try something new, some do not have the patience to see the first initiative through and some do not get the instant gratification they were hoping for.

Consistent and Steady Wins the Race

Once you begin a solid customer service activity you must never stop. Repetition is not dull; it is wonderful. More than ever, people crave consistency in their lives.

Being inconsistent, regardless of how well meaning your intentions are, will erode trust and will limit the recommendations that you receive. It can also cause the client to wonder, perhaps aloud, why your professionalism is slipping, and to perhaps question your competence in other areas.

Consistency is one of the primary reasons that the best in this business have replaced the element of 'chance' within their businesses with the element of 'certainty.' You would be hard-pressed to find another business-development characteristic that provides as big a payoff; the practice of consistency produces better results than any other discipline.

By the way, my moving saga ended on a high note. Brutus apologized and promised to henceforth 'treat me like a king.' My wife and I went ahead and had Brutus move us. I even got the deal of a lifetime on three days storage. To summarize, Brutus made amends, and then proceeded to exceed my expectations. I also told the entire story to Ann, and I encourage her to recommend Brutus and his team to absolutely everyone she can. I know I will.

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