Columnists, Framework, V6I5

Process and Responsibility

(Photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio on Unsplash)

Today I want to tell you the story of Randy.

He is a quintessential blue-collar American. He worked his entire career at one company and was going to retire in about two years. He was a shift supervisor when I met him.

At the time, I was the manager of a portable cabin company. In my role, I didn’t normally take client appointments, but for some reason this day I did. I think the design guy was on vacation or something like that.

Randy and his wife, Sherri, arrived early for their appointment. It was a weekday, and he had taken off work to be able to come. They had driven about four hours to the showroom and design center where I met them.

They were a very friendly couple, not overly outgoing but comfortable and down-to-earth personalities.

As we toured the cabins and discussed their needs for a living space, it quickly became apparent that there was a pretty solid budget in place for this project. Randy was the kind of guy who had played by the rules his whole life, staying on the safe side of every decision, and life had responded in kind. He had money in his 401k, but not a lot, and he had his retirement to think about in two years.

I should mention, they were buying the cabin to live in as they were empty-nesters and wanted to downsize after selling their home.

They had some very custom requirements, such as two freezers and an heirloom china cabinet that needed to fit in the cabin.

We worked on different plans for a couple of hours and nothing seemed to come together. By this time, I had heard a good portion of their life story since some of the requirements were stemming from heirlooms or past experiences.

During this time, a bit of a shift happened to me internally. I was currently designing a cabin to take a good portion of this man’s hard-earned life savings. This could very likely be his retirement home. 

Could I genuinely look this man in the eye and tell him this is the best use of his money? While they had a very defined budget, was recommending a cheaper finish or exterior truly in his best interest?

The shift that happened inside of me is I realized the great responsibility that lay, not only with the sales process but with the company in taking a chunk of his hard earned money and in return, guaranteeing the value of the cabin he would receive.

I should clarify, I believed then and now that the cabins we were selling were of the highest quality. We didn’t use cheap materials and workmanship was important.

However, it is easy to get caught up in the “busyness” of running a business and start looking at customers as “the next job” and not as a person.

Back to the story: I told Randy and Sherri to go for lunch and to give me some time to design the plan. When they got back, I had drawn a completely custom plan that met all of their requirements and fit the budget. They had to sacrifice a little on length of the cabin (they had wanted 48 feet and it was 46) but everything else matched.

The look in their eyes made skipping my lunch worth it. They were so genuinely grateful that I had taken the time to listen and help them achieve what had seemed out of reach during the first part of the morning.

The cabin build process went fairly smoothly, and the next hurdle was delivery. It was a very tight location, but the delivery driver at the time was one of the best guys in the industry and he did what it took to get the cabin in.

A little over two years later, after Randy retired, they came back and bought a larger, more expensive cabin. We did a “buy-back” on their original cabin as they no longer needed it. 

When they came for their pre-delivery walk-through on their second cabin, they asked to speak to me. They said they didn’t want to take too much of my time; they just wanted to thank me again for taking the time to help them achieve their goals. And they wanted to make sure I knew the reason they were back and spending over $100,000 on a second cabin was that their first experience was perfect and all commitments were kept. 

It was a humbling moment to have this good, honest, hard-working couple thanking me for selling them a cabin.

I wanted to share this story today not to brag on myself but to spur your thinking. What do your customers feel when they are working with your company? Do they feel that you genuinely care for them or do they feel the need to stay alert, so they don’t get taken advantage of?

There’s an old saying that says “the customer is always right.” I don’t necessarily agree with that perspective, but I understand the thinking behind it. 

What I prefer is this: “the customer is always the customer.” That customer is a person, another human with his or her own set of life experiences and stories, and you owe it to them to give them the best, most honest experience possible.

In order for this to happen consistently, your entire team needs to care about their part of the process.

Until next time, Be Excellent!     

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