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Way back when, as the Plumber’s Wife, I was the service coordinator in our family business. One day, when a caller told me her name, I broke out in a cold sweat. It was Terry Orr, the editor of the local newspaper. Terry was a community icon, known for her sharp wit and unflinching opinions, which she shared in her popular editorial columns.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Never pick a fight with one who buys ink by the barrel.” I knew immediately we would need to wow Terry with five-star service or live with the fallout for years to come.
I tapped Hotrod for the job, and lectured him about the importance of making a great impression. I printed up fresh checklists and trotted out our training modules. Hotrod rolled his eyes as he climbed into his truck. “I’ve got this,” he said. Certain that he didn’t, I chewed my nails until he showed up back at the shop.
“How did it go?” I questioned, before he had a chance to put his truck in park. “What did she think of our service promise? Did you complete the customer survey?”
“Well, she didn’t have any hot water — and now she does,” he replied.
I could’ve strangled him.
A week later, the newspaper arrived and I flipped to Terry’s editorial. Sure enough, she talked about her plumbing problem — and Hotrod. She was absolutely smitten with him and gave him a glowing review. What was it about the service call that caused such a positive response?
He fixed her tea kettle.
In her column, Terry said Hotrod was professional and technically skilled. She didn’t have hot water when he arrived; she did before he left. But that’s not what wowed her. She said she expected all of that.
While Hotrod was filling out the paperwork, Terry was putting water on for tea. Hotrod noticed the tea kettle handle was loose, and he politely asked if he could tighten it. He took a moment, and a screwdriver, and fixed it. It wasn’t required; it was kind. He created a meaningful moment.
Often the difference between a so-so or a sensational experience is a word, a smile or a small gesture. The sensational experience can lead to a five-star review, and that, my friend, you can take to the bank. Even better, a meaningful moment feels good — to you, your team, your customers and the next person who hears about it.
When you feel good, you do better. When customers feel good, they buy more of your services. Today, let’s celebrate the moments that matter.
Moment of empathy
Whenever I spend time with our service coordinators, I remind them that nobody ever wants to call us. No one wakes up thinking, “Hey, what would be awesome is to discover a backed-up sewer, or a broken pipe, just as I’m heading to work this morning!”
When people call us, it’s a bad day. They may be at their worst as a result and take it out on the service coordinator when they call and describe what is happening: “THERE IS POOP EVERYWHERE!”
What I’ve learned is that the very best service coordinators take just a moment to offer a little empathy before they get on with the business of the call. It can sound something like this:
“Aww. That’s a tough way to start your day. Mrs. Fernwicky, you’ve called the right place. I can help.”
This moment validates Mrs. Fernwicky. It is a hassle; you get it. Let Mrs. Fernwicky know you hear her. Then it is so much easier for her, and you, to book the call.
Moment to think
At 5:05 p.m. one Friday, I listened as a couple of our accounting team members were digging into why an export that should have gone smoothly — didn’t. They decided to sleep on it. Working overtime on a nonemergency problem rarely results in a speedy, positive result.
How many times have you walked away from a challenging situation and come back the next day with a simple solution? Allowing for a moment to think, or let the problem simmer, can be a humane way to support your crew.
Note that I am not advocating smoking! However, I have noticed smokers often find the answer to a conundrum during cigarette breaks. It’s a moment to think.
Moment of humility
You are going to make mistakes. Lots of them. Dale Carnegie said, “When you lay an egg, you may as well step back and admire it.” Leadership is evidenced by a willingness to take responsibility for mistakes — those of your own creation as well as those you wander into.
I know people who cannot say they are sorry. Or that they made a mistake. May you not be that person. Owning a mistake is the fastest way to get past it and on to a solution. Apologizing when you have been thoughtless or disrespectful is the first step to repairing a damaged relationship.
“I apologize. I wasn’t listening. I intended to help, but instead, I steamrolled you. Could we start over, please?”
Would that be so hard? When you are the manager or owner, everything that happens is ultimately your responsibility, so be willing to take the hit when things go wrong. With teammates and customers, a mea culpa moment can lower defensiveness and increase respect. Just sayin’, when I pause for a moment and listen to the crew, we make better decisions.
Moment to notice
If you are a technician, you have spent a good portion of your life troubleshooting. You are good at finding problems. It may be a stretch for you to notice what is going right. We can create meaningful moments by merely noticing when someone does something well. Consider giving at least one specific and genuine compliment a day.
“John, your truck looks great. The parts and tools are where they belong. The cab is clean and organized. Job well-done. Thank-you.”
Another moment to notice: When a tech or dispatcher is working late. You can make it a point to meet them at the shop after an extraordinarily long day. Or stop by the job that ran into a few snags. You might bring pizza. At the very least, a call or text lets your team member know you notice that he is going above and beyond.
Got a moment?
Perhaps you could reward, or at least recognize, these moments? As you read this, you may be smiling, thinking about one that just happened at your shop. Please tell me about it at email@example.com.
As I was writing this column, I got a text from Sam Marcisso Jr. He is one of my best friends and a Zoom Drain franchisee. He and his son Sam 3 have been our Franchisees of the Year for two years running.
Sam sent me a Facebook review. Fontus is another one of his companies, owned by him and his other son Thomas. This review illustrates the kind of moment I am hoping to capture in this column. Their team member Adam could have ignored this reach for help. Instead, he listened, calmed their fears and helped them solve the immediate problem. He created a memorable, meaningful moment. Well-done!