by Jim Hinshaw

Just had an interesting thing happen on my AA flight from Phx to Dfw. I was flying out at 5:30, saw there was a 4:25 flight, started to get on it, but found no isle seats, mostly middle seats, so did not even try.  That flight was cancelled one hour before it was scheduled, most moved to my flight, which is now packed.  So packed the gate agent said we will not be able to gate check any bags, carry them on, pack them into the overhead or under your seat.


They must have repeated that a dozen times, and we complied.  Shoving our bags into the bins, putting the smaller items under the seat, just like we were told, it got interesting, but we made it happen.  Here is where the amazing part occurred.


The gate agent came aboard, she said we had succeeded, got all 202 souls on board with luggage, and did not gate check anything.  Which made sense since she had told us 12 times that we could not gate check.  She thanked us for doing a great job, following her instructions, helping get on board fast with a bunch of extra people included.  Actually thanked us.  We applauded, that is the first time EVER that a gate agent has come on board and thanked us, and I fly every month, sometimes twice a month.


Now, for a complete reversal. Turned my rental car in, should not say what car rental company it was, cause it HURTZ.  OK, you get the drift.  Checked in my car, asked the guy who checked me in for a receipt.  He said I would have to go to the counter inside the terminal to get a receipt, but they would only do that if the car had been checked in.  I said I thought that is what you just did.  He said no, that is not a complete check-in, there is more to be done, and he was already walking away.  I followed and said, I guess I will just get an email receipt.  He laughed, said you might.  Or you might not, just depends on how things go.  Then he whispered, like this is a big secret: to be honest (which is a terrible phrase to use, ever!), this company is so (he used language I would never use) up, you may never get

your receipt, this company makes _________ (think he said Toyota, doesn’t make sense) look good.


I went on to the terminal, note to self, look for another car rental company.  And, yes, they did ask me how the rental was, and yes, I told them what I just told you.


Third example, went to Lowes to buy a couple of hose bib covers, winter is coming in hard.  At the self-checkout met Kay, who asked me what I was looking for. Told her, she directed me to an end cap where they were displayed, about 30 feet away.  She said there are even more down isle 20, but these were the better quality.  Accurate, these were hard plastic, I bought the cheaper ones a couple of years ago, they are some kind of foam that will disintegrate after a couple of seasons.  As I left, another gentleman at the door asked me: did you find everything you needed?  I replied sure did; he then said drive safe, lots of traffic today.


Got me to thinking, which doesn’t take much these days, what are you employees doing to either help or hurt your brand and image in the marketplace.  We spend large chunks of money to get the customers to connect, to let us into their homes and businesses, to trust us for service and an occasional installation, and one employee can improve or trash the experience.


Say I am old-school, but I feel like if you are getting a paycheck that puts bread on your table, allows you to pay utilities, buy some clothes, pay for transportation, then you should not bad-mouth that employer.  If there is a situation that needs some attention, bring it up to your direct report, you have done your job.  It will not help to share the problems with customers, in fact, it will hurt your company, and if it happens often enough, it may cost you your job.  Years ago I wrote an article for one of the trade magazines in which I said: these days more people will be fired because of a bad attitude than will be fired for not doing a good job.  In fact, you could have an employee that is amazing at the technical side, but does a terrible job with customers, no soft skills at all.  I can teach a person how to fix a water heater, tune up a furnace, do the work needed even if they have no experience.  But a person who has a bad attitude, doesn’t like himself and others, they can cost you more than they bring in daily.  You will have a hard time teaching someone to like others if it is not in their nature.


My advice, spend some time training your team to work with the customer.  They are the front lines, they interact daily, it is important to be sure those interactions are positive, and the customers feel blessed when you are done.  By the way, I do mean the entire team, CSRs, install team, service techs, office staff, everyone.  Glad we had this time today; we will talk later.


PS, it was a great trade show that Antoine put on, MTCAZ is an amazing group.  I saw some folks that I had not seen in years and saw some who were at the trade show over a decade ago, and still the same size as they were then.  You know who you are. Do what Ken Goodrich says you must do today to grow and succeed.  Three words.  Raise Your Prices.  Yep, it really is that simple.  Oh, and join the Service Nation, where we help business improve their financials, leading to a successful exit strategy.