Thursday, August 6, 2015

Make Yours Outrageous

You would think that delivering great customer service would be top of mind for anyone who needs to make a living.  You would think. But you would be wrong.

You might also think that the guy who has spent a lifetime preaching Positively Outrageous Service would be hypersensitive to the nuances of loving on customers.  You would think.  And again you would be wrong!

Yesterday I called the dentist who we had been seeing for years and canceled an appointment.  My wife asked, “What made you decide to do that?”

Rather than answering her question, I have a few questions for you. The answers might help you in two ways. First, you might pick up more customers than ever through positive word of mouth.  Second you might lose fewer customers like me who without thinking had just canceled a long term customer relationship almost without conscious consideration.

Here are your questions:


  • Are you confident that everyone in your company will deliver a Positively Outrageous Service experience when left on their own and do you know when they don’t?
  • Do you know what your customers really want and are the people you hire capable of delivering?



I’m looking forward to keynoting Service Roundtable where we’re going to answer those questions and more!  See you in St. Louis!

                 

     - T. Scott Gross, Author and upcoming Service World Keynote


Service Roundtable members get the lowest rate available anywhere. Call us today at 877.262.3341 to join. Or click here

Monday, June 22, 2015

Please Don’t Leave Me!

When the heat is on in the HVAC industry and the phones are ringing non-stop, nobody cares about the need for leads.  Contractors have more leads than they can handle.  They care about getting the work done and keeping their people theirs.  In other words, they worry about competitors poaching technicians and installers.  Here’s how to stop them.


Pay Well

If you are not paying top wages for your market, expect to lose good people to companies who are compensating people at the top of the market.  And yes, paying well means pricing at a level that supports your payroll.


Offer Good Benefits

Young, single technicians are immortal and invincible.  They care about pay, not benefits.  Older, married technicians are a different story.  Being a little generous in benefits can have more impact than added pay.  What is the difference per hour between 100% and 80% company paid healthcare?  Spread it by hour and it’s not much, yet it’s perceived to be incredibly generous.  If you do not offer them, consider dental and low cost term life insurance.


Acknowledge the Spouse’s Sacrifice

Long summer hours do not affect the technicians alone.  They also affect wives and kids.  There may not be an option to work less, but you can show the family you understand the toll they pay and find ways to lessen it.  Send a note or thank you card expressing your understanding of the added burden the summer places on the family and your appreciation of their support.  Include a gift card for a nice restaurant, movie tickets, water park passes, and/or a spa treatment.  Send one in June and another in July.


Pack a Lunch

Your technicians may prefer their own lunch choices, but consider packing lunches for them in the summer with a choice of drinks in a cooler.  Work an arrangement with a local deli to prepare the sandwiches and a competitive price. 


Visit Your Installers

Sometime during the day, take some water or sports drinks to your installers.  If gives you a chance to check on the job, ask how things are going, and show how much you appreciate them.


Stock a Refrigerator

Keep cold drinks and frozen snacks in a refrigerator in the shop for your technicians.  It’s an inexpensive thank you and something to look forward to at the end of the day.


Have Fun

How can you make work fun?  When Service Nation Alliance Vice President of Programs, Bob Viering worked for a Dallas air conditioning contractor he created a contest that involved everyone in the company.  Office staff were teamed with field personnel to offer support, encouragement, and all-around cheerleading.  Bob produced a daily “sportscast” of how the teams were doing with the score and statistics measured by team sales, average ticket, and other measures.  Everyone had fun and it got the competitive juices flowing.  Plus, when the contest concluded, the winning team was treated to a steak dinner at a nice restaurant, while everyone else was served baked beans.  Members can download a copy of “The Great Steak and Beans Contest” from the Service Roundtable if they want to create their own contest.


Give Random Rewards

Get to know your people personally so that you know what some of their personal desires are.  One Service Nation Alliance Member surprised a technician with basketball playoff tickets.  Other technicians might be given weekend use of a lake-house and boat.


Say Thanks – Say It A Lot

Every employee survey shows that people leave over a lack of appreciation more than any other reason.  For those who are money motivated or task driven, it’s hard to imagine the need for, and power of a little heartfelt appreciation.  Say thank you.  Often.  Applaud good work.  Complement people in front of others.  This may be more powerful than anything else you do.


© 2015 Matt Michel

Friday, May 8, 2015



Climbing to the Top


Recently, I had the opportunity to climb Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.  I couldn't help but notice the parallels between making the climb and building a business.

At the foot of Camelback, it doesn't look too difficult.  The trail only ascends 1280 feet.  It starts with a well-maintained, graded path that is steep, but not too strenuous.  Nevertheless, I felt it.  I was slightly out-of-breath and sweating by the second switchback.  Pretending to enjoy the view, I stopped to catch my breath.

After ascending 240 feet, a sign on Echo Saddle warns climbers against proceeding further.  The trail rating so far was moderate.  After the sign, the trail rating to the summit was given two black diamonds and declared to be “extremely strenuous.” Climbers were warned about the potential for “broken bones, heat stroke, heart attack, or even death.”

No worries, I thought.  I can handle it.  I couldn't imagine stopping only a short way into the climb and imagined few did.

The trail did change after that.  The climb became less walking along a trail and more, scrambling over boulders, and steep climbs.  At a couple of the steepest points, handrails were present.  I wasn't ashamed to use them.

I wasn't always sure where the trail went.  I watched other hikers, paying special attention to the climbers who looked like they climbed the mountain regularly. 

When viewed from a distance, Camelback looks barren.  While climbing it, I noticed lots of flowering vegetation and wildlife, ranging from lizards to birds to chipmunks.  And of course, bees.  More on the bees later.

As I climbed, I found I needed to stop and rest more frequently.  It was irritating that far younger and older climbers seemed to fly effortless past me, up the mountain.  My irritation felt shameful when some of these same climbers offered me words of encouragement.

When I stopped, I would look down to see how far I’d come.  Each time it seemed amazing how much progress I’d made and the last time I stopped and what had seemed incredibly high a few minutes before, no longer seemed high at all.

Several times, it looked like I was about to crest the summit.  I’d push a little harder only to find the trail continued up, but I couldn't see the next rise from below.  Finally, I crested the top and gasped at the view.  Well, I gasped in general.  It was a remarkable view of the Valley of the Sun. 

Then, the bees arrived.

A sign at the bottom of the trail warned of bees.  Okay, I thought, there are a few bees around.  Why the sign?  At the top, we found out.  A swarm swept across the peak of Camelback and I discovered I had a lot more energy than I thought as I rushed down the mountain to get out of their way.

Going down the mountain proved more difficult for me than climbing up.  I had to be careful not to slip.  The handrails were even more helpful on the climb down.

So why is this like building a business?

·       Like climbing a mountain, building a business seems a lot easier before you start.

·       Like the sign on Camelback warning you of the dangers of proceeding, there are always naysayers who will tell you why you will fail and why you should give up.  The only sure way to fail is by listening to them.

·       On a mountain and in business, there are times that are far more strenuous than others.  There are times when you need to take a break, catch your breath, and pause so that you can climb even faster.  Stephen Covey called this “sharpening your saw.”

·       The path up a mountain or in business is not always clear.  There is often more than one way up.

·       Like watching other climbers for clues about a faster way to the top, it helps in business if you can learn the easier path from other business owners and avoid mistakes they made in the past.
Matt Michel at the top.

·       If other climbers scaled Camelback faster than I did, it didn't hurt me.  It also doesn't hurt you when other businesses around you, grow faster.  I climbed at a pace I could manage.  Likewise, you grow a business at a pace you can manage. 

·       Like climbers seem to feel a camaraderie, business owners relate to each other.  They encourage each other.  They know what you are going through.

·       Like Camelback, the opportunities for your business may seem barren, but if you look, you will notice rich opportunities others cannot see.  Even for you to see them, you need to pause from your struggle for a minute or two and take a look around.  It’s amazing what abundance surround every industry and business.

·       The view from the top is always better and more satisfying, and at each stage of your business’ growth, your earlier milestones seem almost trivial.

·       It’s also a lot more fun climbing up a mountain than going down.  Similarly, running a growing business is more fun than a shrinking one.

·       If you’re climbing Camelback, you need to watch out for the bees.  If you’re running a contracting company, watch out for the stings.


© 2015 Matt Michel

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Two Kinds of People
 By Guest Writer, Doug Hanson

You may remember I have a simple philosophy that guides my thoughts and actions about people.

"There are really only two kinds of people.  Those that brighten the room when they walk in, and those that brighten it when they leave!"

It is a simple statement that illustrates a powerful principle.  People would prefer to be associated with and do business with people who brighten their life.  People that always have something good to say, that make us feel important and appreciated, and that have a positive outlook on life.  
 The next thing you may want to consider is "Which one are you"?  Do people describe you as someone that brightens the room when you walk in?  Or, do they have less than favorable feelings toward you.  The good news is that regardless of your answer, you can change starting right now.  Being a source of energy and enthusiasm will pay dividends in every aspect of your life, especially in your career, in your marriage, and with your family.


YOUR CAREER
It is important to notice that this principle has nothing to do with knowledge or skill.  You could be the most experienced or knowledgeable person on your team and still be the one that stifles everyone's energy.  In fact, this is the trap that most people fall into.  They think their IQ (Intellectual Quotient) is more important than their EQ (Emotional Quotient).  Often times we evaluate our overall value by how much knowledge, skill, or experience we bring to the organization when in reality, your spirit is your real contribution.

A recent study in the Wall Street Journal stated that hiring professionals ranked interpersonal skills such as communication and the ability to work well with others, significantly higher in importance (over 20% higher) than cognitive attributes such as strategic thinking and specific knowledge.  Obviously, we have to be competent in our professions but the study reveals what most managers are thinking, "It is far easier to teach someone new skills than it is to improve their attitude or personality".

In other words, if you want to get ahead, you have to be liked and be likeable!  There are few professions where your personality isn't important.  I guess if I needed brain surgery I wouldn't care if my brain surgeon had a personality or a positive disposition.  Just fix my brain, man!  But even a brain surgeon has a brighter future if he can learn to brighten the room when he walks in.  You may not like it but the truth is, your people skills and personality are important.

As this point illustrates, if you don't master the skill of brightening the room when you walk in, you force yourself to be so highly skilled and qualified, that people hire you and work with you solely for your intellectual contribution, your IQ.  


PARENTING
Have you ever approached a depressed, withdrawn, bitter person and said, "Give me some secrets to a happy and successful life?"  Of course not, it would be ridiculous.  Yet that's what many of us expect our children to do.  We walk around unhappy, with a scowl on our face, criticizing everything from the government to our jobs to the traffic to and from work, and then wonder why our kids won't listen to us.  Why should we expect our kids to embrace our advice if we are living a life of misery?  It reminds me of quote I often repeat to myself when I'm with my kids, "What you do speaks so loudly I can't hear a word your saying". 

If you want your kids to respect you, to enjoy spending time with you, and to seek your council, the best way is to be someone that brightens the room when you walk in. 


MARRIAGE
The same holds true for your spouse.  Think about how much energy you put into courting and impressing your spouse when you first met.  Do you put that much energy or thought into that relationship today?  Would your spouse describe you as someone who brightens the home?  If not, take some steps today to change that.  You'll find your spouse spinning with curiosity, wondering what's going on.  In fact, I think your goal should be for your spouse to ask you by the end of the week, "What's gotten into you?"   


RELATIONSHIPS
Have you ever considered all the ways we "categorize" people?  The minute we meet someone we ask questions about their profession, where they are from, or what church they attend.  We ask about their background, their lifestyle, where their kids go to school, and their position on local or national politics.  Such questions help us find areas we have in common and therefore serve as a basis for a stronger relationship.  This naturally occurs because in most cases, we are initially attracted to people that are like ourselves. Conversation is effortless if you have something in common.  Unfortunately, if our interests are guided by a negative bias towards life, our curiosity and search for information can also work against us.  As it turns out, the more you learn about someone, the more likely you will eventually find something that is different and uncomfortable.

This is where my simple "brighten the room" philosophy can benefit your life again.  I realized at one point in my life that I had somehow developed a bitter attitude about people in general.  If I met someone who had ten things in common with me and one characteristic that was different, I would only focus on the one and often move away from developing a relationship.  Ultimately, I would find something different about everyone, so I found myself with fewer and fewer relationships.  In other words, I didn't like anybody!  That's a terrible way to live life.

So I decided to live by the philosophy that there are only two kinds of people, those that brighten the room when they walk in and those that brighten it when they leave.  I no longer focused on their profession, or the religious persuasion, or their political views.  My philosophy became very simple.  If you brighten the room when you walk in, I want you in my life.  I am still amazed at how much this improved my quality of life.

ACTION STEPS
Here are a few ideas for things you can do to brighten the room when you walk in.  Once you get some momentum, it will change your personal identity and your sub-conscious habits forever.
  • Put a smile on your face.  This one really freaks people out!
  • Have a kind word to say to everyone...   Yes everyone!
  • Give without remembering and receive without forgetting.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude.  Be thankful for everything - your health, freedom, friendships, employment, skills, hobbies, finances, challenges, ... everything!
  • Wake your kids with upbeat or spiritual music that energizes them.
  • Set the CD player in your spouse's car to play a special song when he/she starts the car in the morning for work.  It could be a song you both remember from when you were dating, or it could be their current favorite song (they will probably be most impressed that you really know their current favorite song!).  Adding a personal note makes this gesture extra special.
  • Subscribe to an on-line "joke-of-the-day" service and share the good ones with your friends, family, and co-workers on a regular basis.
  • Every day tell your loved ones (kids, parents, spouse, etc.) what you are most proud of them about, or what you feel their best qualities are, or the positive things other people say about them in the community and how that benefits the entire family.

I hope these will get you started.  If you'll try some of these you'll soon realize that there are literally thousands of ways to brighten the room.  The key is in your personal effort and presence.   If you get a chance, please share with me some of the most effective ways you are brightening your world so I can share them in future writings.
                                                                                           
Until we meet again, Play Full Out!  Your friend and Transformation Coach!

Doug Hanson (Doug@DougHanson.com)
 
Printed with Permission
© 2015 Doug Hanson

Come experience Doug Hanson in person at the International Roundtable in Phoenix, April 14-16. Get the inspiration and information you need to grow your company faster. For more info, just go to www.ServiceRoundtable.com 
 

Friday, March 20, 2015

What's Special About a Doughnut?

“Ohhhhhh”, exclaims Homer Simpson simply at the sight of the fried dough seen on every street corner in America. So what makes donuts different? You probably don’t go to a specific donut shop…you just go to the closest one because they’re all the same. Right? Might have different sugar or decoration or be cake or “regular”…but your choices are pretty much the same no matter where you go.

Enter Voodoo Doughnut. Branded with old wood and bricks, a guy with a funny hat and a scary face, and a tagline that stages “The magic is in the hole”. The entire website is funky, freaky and oddly fun. Even the “about” section is written and presented like the brand is from some crazy warehouse in Portland. Oh wait…it is.

At Voodoo Doughnut, you  can get married. Yep….legally. On a recent trip to Voodoo Doughnut in Portland at 10:00PM at night…there was a LINE AROUND THE BUILDING.  You can buy t-shirts, water bottles and even sunglasses with donuts on them – you can see out, but no one see in.

So can you take some lessons for your service  company from this? How can you brand yourself uniquely? Every contractor states they offer “fast, dependable” service. Yawn…..

Spend some time with Voodoo Doughnut. I’m not suggesting you implement weddings…or sell branded underpants….but I am suggesting you figure out what makes you unique. Can you rebrand yourself? Can you immerse your company in that brand? And can you offer “extras” that that align with your brand?


© 2015 Robin Jones 

Robin Jones
VP Marketing
Service Roundtable

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Unlicensed Contractors are Like the New England Patriots

Much of the NFL discussion leading up to last night’s Super Bowl, centered on “deflate-gate.”  Similar stuff happens every day in the service trades.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, deflate-gate is a reference to the AFC Championship game when the New England Patriots were found using under-inflated footballs in wet conditions, making them easier to grip and catch.  New England quarterback, Tom Brady had even mentioned his preference for under-inflated balls in the past.

Colts safety, Mike Adams knew immediately after intercepting a Brady pass that the ball didn’t feel right, so he handed it to his equipment manager for later inspection (Each team provides its own balls, which are checked twice by referees before kickoff).  When Adams intercepted a second pass and discovered that it too, was under-inflated, the Colts complained.  After the game, it was reported that eleven of twelve balls were under-inflated.

It is unlikely Brady didn’t know the balls were under-inflated.  NFL analyst and former Super Bowl quarterback Troy Aikman, not known for hyperbole, commented, “It’s obvious that Tom Brady had something to do with this... for the balls to be deflated, that doesn’t happen unless the quarterback wants that to happen, I can assure you of that.”

Anyone who ever played sports with an inflated ball finds it hard to imagine someone not recognizing one that’s under-inflated.  This goes for basketball, soccer, volleyball, and football.

It also stretches credibility to think Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick didn’t know about the deflated footballs.  This is a guy who manages details to the degree he tweaks the conditions of practice footballs.  He’s stated, “With regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine will tell you that the balls we practice with, are as bad as they can be — wet, sticky, cold, slippery — however bad we can make ‘em, I make ‘em. And, anytime that players complain about the quality of the balls, I make ‘em worse, and that stops. So, we never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever or kick with whatever we have to use, and that’s the way it is.”

He’s not helped by a past that is full of transgressions and instances of pushing the limits of the rulebook, if not flagrantly violating it.  For Belichick to be innocent, he would be a leopard who changed his spots.

Ironically, any edge the footballs gave the Patriots was unnecessary.  The team manhandled the overmatch Colts.  They cheated without the need.

This is exactly like unlicensed contractors and unpermitted work.  Just like the Patriots would have won without breaking the rules, contractors can succeed and make money by operating within the constraints of licensing laws and permitting rules.  Like the Patriots, they choose not to.  Why?

I do not understand people who cheat when they need not, people who lie when the truth will serve, and people who steal the work of others when they are capable of producing their own.  I assume they are taking what they perceive is the easier path.  I assume they perceive the risk/reward ratio tilted in favor of breaking the rules.

If breaking the rules in the NFL had consequences, New England’s win over the Colts would have been forfeit.  Whether the underinflated balls altered the outcome of the game or not, it was cheating.  At the very least, the NFL could have suspended Belichick and Brady for the Super Bowl.  After a Super Bowl win any punishment seems trite, trivial, and irrelevant. 

It’s like catching a kid with his hand in the cookie jar, but letting him eat the cookie anyway, and then telling him he couldn’t have another.  At that point, who cares?

The reason the NFL failed to take action is the cost.  The consequence of suspending coaches, players, or instituting a forfeit would have tarnished the league and turned the Super Bowl into a joke.  Most fans would have seen it as overkill.  It was a cost no one was willing to take.  Thus, the reward of a potential edge, no matter how slight, is greater than an ephemeral cost factored by the risk of getting caught.

Similarly, the risks and costs of getting caught operating without a license or performing work without permits represent insufficient deterrence for contractors.  While we could raise the penalties or tighten enforcement to increase the risk of getting caught, no one is willing to accept the costs.  Few in the public would consider it acceptable, for example, to incarcerate an unlicensed contractor.  No one wants to pay for a significant increase in enforcement personnel.

Whether in sports or contracting, you can play hard and still play by the rules.  You can also seek to win at all costs, regardless of rules and ethics.  It’s your choice.  Personally, I choose to sleep well at night and maintain the ability look myself in the mirror when I wake.

© 2015 Matt Michel


If you’re a Patriots fan who is all injured by this column, just remember you won a Super Bowl last night.  Meanwhile, I pull for the Cowboys.  You don’t have to say anything else.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Assume the Prospect is Buying

 

Sometimes people make sales too hard.  Sometimes all you need to do is assume the prospect is buying and proceed.

Think about it.  Only masochists enjoy entertaining multiple sales presentations.  Sure, there are a few masochists out there, but most people really want to buy from you and get it over with.

Sales great, Charlie Greer explained that people want to buy.  The reason they call you is they are hoping that you will solve their problems.  So do your job.

Some people are not great decision makers.  They want someone to make the decisions for them, even the salesperson.  If you are in the role of a consultative salesperson, making the best decisions for the customer is entirely appropriate.

Assume the prospect is buying and proceed.  Do not ask the prospect to sign.  Tell the prospect you need a signature so you can proceed with the next step (e.g., schedule the crew, order the equipment, pull the permits, whatever).

You might be surprised how many people will do exactly what you instruct.  It’s what the prospect wants.  If not, he or she will stop you or refuse, which is valuable too.  It gives you an opportunity to unearth the reason for not proceeding.  Solve it or address it and move forward.

This is called the assumptive close.  Try it.

©2014 Matt Michel

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