August 25, 2010
by Pete Barry
Look Mom, I’m Handy!
This morning I finished installing a ceiling fan in my kitchen. If you’re not clapping or bug-eyed with your mouth agape, let me explain something… I don’t do that sort of thing. When my car needs oil I take it to the mechanic. When my lawn mower or snow blower needs a new spark plug I take it to the hardware store. When it comes to the kinds of things around the house which my parent’s generation would call, “a man’s job”, I am completely inept. I envy my friends who are gifted at being handy and also enjoy getting their hands dirty. I’m just not any good at handy work. It’s something I don’t enjoy or know anything about. So, why did I install a ceiling fan, you ask? Because of two things which I do know about; Customer service and marketing.
In the last few months or so I’ve had a few things on the home improvement to do list. In the early summer my neighbor had some trees trimmed and others removed. I asked the people doing the work if they would take a look at my trees and give me an estimate for trimming. They seemed very knowledgeable and thrilled to have an interested customer. They took my information and promised a written estimate by the end of the week. It never came.
A priority item on the list was to get my driveway seal-coated. I contacted several service providers in the area and received a variety of quotes. Most bids i received were in the same price range. One guy who came out to look at my driveway was very polite, decently priced and he didn’t make me feel stupid about his knowledge of asphalt seal-coating and my lack thereof. I called him the next day to let him know that I’d like to hire his company. He didn’t answer so I left a message. A couple days went by and I received no return call. I called him again and left another message. A few days later, when my wife had suggested that I give up and go with someone else, I gave him another call. Still no answer. Later that day he finally called me back and we were able to schedule for the work to be done the following Tuesday morning at 9am. When Tuesday morning came along he didn’t arrive at 9am. He didn’t arrive at 9:30, 10 or 10:30. I gave him a call shortly after 10:30 to see if he had died. I expected that in a struggling economy where every penny counts that if he wasn’t showing up for the work, he must be dead. He answered the phone this time. I was amazed. He told me that he had been up until 2am the night before and was struggling to get going in the morning. He told me that he would be out to do the driveway, “Very Soon.” I told him to forget it.
Another item on my list was to replace a broken ceiling fan in the kitchen. Due to my lack of handiness and the likelihood of electrocuting myself I contacted an electrician and asked if I could get an estimate. When a man came out the next day, I showed him the broken ceiling fan as well as a few other electrical items which I would be interested in getting bids for. He told me that I could expect a written estimate in the mail within a day or two. It never came.
I believe the phrase I’m looking for is WTF? I just don’t know any other way to put it. How can companies, like the ones I encountered, afford not to provide excellent customer service in an age of abundant influence and poor economy?
After my visit with the electrician I decided to do a little research on ceiling fans. I found that Home Depot had a large selection of products and some excellent information on how to install them. When I visited the store I found fans with packaging advertising a five minute install. Between Home Depot and the fan manufacturers it was evident that even I could do this. I showed a few fans to my wife, we selected one we like and I installed it myself. The website and the packaging were the push I needed to make the purchase and do the work myself. Of course it didn’t take five minutes and I had to make several trips back and forth to the store. I learned the hard way that It’s a good idea to measure a room before putting a fan in it. My wife and I are both vertically challenged and we would have hit our heads on the first fan I brought home.
The Best Candidate
So, who’s the best candidate for the job? I learned that it’s not necessarily the guy who is the most likable, most knowledgeable or the guy who shows up. The fan works but the driveway and trees are still untouched. I know that I’m not the best candidate for either of those jobs and I’m quite sure that I wasn’t the best candidate for the ceiling fan either. The best candidate may have been out there and I just never found them. The lesson I learned from this is that to be the best candidate for a job, you have to be findable, likable and you have to show up. But that’s just the beginning. That just gets you the job. Once you’re there you have to do great work. A couple of weeks ago I checked an item off of the list. I had central air added to my home. This summers heat was the motivation I needed to get that job done. I had a couple of people provide estimates but one company, Pronto Heating and Air Conditioning, was the best candidate for the job. When Greg from Pronto came out to look at the house and provide an estimate I was never treated like the handy-capped person that I am. He took the extra time to make sure that all of my questions were answered and that his recommendation was the best one for my situation. Greg’s level of customer service was what made me choose Pronto and the guys who came out to install the system only added to the positive image I already had of their brand. They did great work and I feel like no one could have done a better job.
I expect that people will ask for the names of the companies which left me hanging. I don’t believe that they deserve to have their names mentioned in my blog. Pronto does deserve it because they were the best candidate for the job. What are you going to do to be the best?