by Jim Hinshaw

May and I travel a lot, some for business, some for us. We just had a trip that was really special, our 50th wedding anniversary trip. To New Orleans. What made it even more special was a couple of ladies at the Delta Club in Phx.

Claudia and Renita are the two women on deck when you check into the Delta Club in terminal 3 at Sky Harbor airport. They are friendly, always ask me where I am going, how long gonna be gone, that sort of stuff. So May and I were traveling for our 50th wedding anniversary, I introduced them to May. They were pleased to meet her, asked where we were going. Told them this was a big date for us, been married 50 years. We went into the club to get a bite of food; they have amazing choices in Phoenix. They both came by our table about 10 minutes later with a gift bag: Delta socks for me, a Delta water bottle for May, plus a nice card. It was impressive.

We got on our plane, had a connection to make, one-hour layover before our flight into New Orleans. As we got off the first flight, a couple of Delta employees were standing there with a sign that said: Jim and May Hinshaw. So I claimed that name, they said follow us. We walked out the jet bridge, down a set of stairs onto the tarmac, where we were invited to sit in a new Porsche SUV. Where we were given a box of chocolates and were driven to our next gate. Again the jet bridge thing, we were then given new boarding passes for first class, first row, premo seats! I have heard of that happening, but it was first time for us.

But wait, it gets better. When we check into our Hilton hotel in New Orleans, I had asked for a river view room, since it was our anniversary and all. The front desk asked how many years, told them, they congratulated us. Or actually congratulated May, since it has been 5 decades of putting up with me! They then said, we will buy you dinner tonight at Drago’s, which is one reason we went to New Orleans in the first place, to eat! They also gave us tickets for a breakfast each morning, probably because I am a Diamond, but it still made us feel really good.

What is my point about sharing this with you? It is all about the experience, making people feel special. It is probably not every day that a family installs a new heating/air conditioning system, bathroom or kitchen remodel, or anyone of the many things we bring to the market. Our people have the opportunity to make that installation an event. It starts with thanking them for letting your company be involved in that home, creating a comfortable, healthy and safe place for them to live. Not trying to go Oprah on you, but we can help them sleep better, breathe better, maybe even live longer by applying products with some of the new technology available today.

I worked at Donley Service Center for almost a decade. I can remember when Jim Donley decided to send out a thank you card to anyone who installed a new system. It was a small card in a hand addressed envelope, written with a blue felt tip pen. At one point he had gone fishing (Jim still thinks he is a Fish Whisperer) and when he came returned, we had a stack of new installs that needed the thank you cards. He actually grumbled about how long it took him to write a personal note to each customer, until he realized that those cards paid for his fishing trip.

Maybe cards are not your thing. Could you have the install team deliver a coffee mug and treats when they do a startup? Or send flowers to the lady of the home? Gift certificate to dinner at a nice restaurant? Not sure what your thing would be, but I believe that in today’s economy, we must do more than before to make an impression. Installing our products is what got us in the game, to have that customer become a “Raving Fan” (thanks to Ken Blanchard) we must raise the bar. Raving Fans tell others how great your team is, how they showed up on time, put on them booties, were polite, even petted the dog/cat/animals of any kind. Talked to the young humans in the home, showed how to operate the thermostat to anyone who needed to see how to operate the new thermostat. Oh, about them booties. If you are not using them, start today! Jessie Rice at Shubee ( hook you up, call her at 866-317-7897. Actually I write a column for their newsletter, she is my editor, but she will be glad to direct your call. And I am not paid for mentioning them or for my column, just good people.

Why not make a commitment today to engage the customer at a deeper level than ever before. We must do that to succeed, the competition is tougher than ever, your team has to get more creative than ever in putting together systems that not only do what the customer needs done, but actually fit in places where they are needed.

Back to where we started, Claudia and Renita made our trip an amazing adventure. The lesson there is that we have no idea what the people that we see on a regular basis can do, make sure that your team is ready to deliver a fantastic experience, not just installing a 3 ton system like they have done three times this week already.

Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.