Small Things

I sent Bob Likely at Sherwood Volkswagen a note this morning, suggesting that he ask his service techs to return the driver’s seat to its owner’s position after a service call. This after having the Jetta’s 8000 km service done this morning, getting back into the car, and mungling my knees on the steering wheel.

I sent the letter only to be helpful, and because I’m pretty certain they’ll actually act on it. Since I’ve been dealing with them (largely at the recommendation of readers of this website), I’ve always found them both helpful and also responsive to feedback.

Sometimes when I wonder about why businesses don’t worry about these “little things” more, I have only to think of my own business.

I know that when things get action packed and stressful, the first things to go by the wayside are the little things: the call to a client just to see how they’re making out, the development of minor new features and conveniences in applications, never requested or even imagined by a client, but wonderful and time-saving when they see them.

It’s not that during these times I’m not offering my clients good service. It’s simply that I’m not offering them excellent, above and beyond the call of duty service. And that is the kind of service I aspire to offer. And indeed the kind of service that I hope everyone would aspire to offer.

And so a suggestion. Stop what you’re doing right now, and take 5 minutes and call one of your clients just to see how they’re making out. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to improve the service you’re offering them. Ask them how their business is making out. Ask them if there’s anything you’re not offering them that you could. Ask them how their kids are doing.

I guarantee that this will make you feel good, make your client feel great, and will probably teach you 3 or 4 things about your business that you didn’t know.

Comments

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on April 24, 2002 - 15:38

Peter, your absolutely right that it’s the little (apparently insignificant) details that often shape our impressions of each other. That said, I can’t help but laugh at the thought of the guys at the VW dealership scratching their heads (and possibly cursing you) while reading a letter asking them to return the driver’s seat to the original position. Hilarious.

Sherwood Volkswagen's picture
Sherwood Volkswagen on April 24, 2002 - 20:55

Peter
Thankyou for your note concerning seat position, you are correct, we have reminded all our staff on this and have posted reminders in key locations. Again
Peter thanks, all to often these types of issues never make it back to us.
bob likely

Kevin O's picture
Kevin O on April 25, 2002 - 13:48

I can’t get Ellie (50% of the time) to return the seat… bust-a-gut-head-banging reminders, to me, every time she doesn’t; usually I practice a little zen and just try to think of all the wonderful things she does for me — but a grunt and couple of moans are not at all uncommon nevertheless.


Call a client? Are you kidding? This from a guy who has a few dozen… when clients number in the thousands one is careful about sending an email because of the NEAR CERTAINTY of the $1000.00 (plus) cost associated with answering the 300+ phone calls that come in which require every word in the email to be explained, and for at least 10% of those — an on-site visit to fix something that was “clearly broken by the email you sent” arrrrrgh!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 25, 2002 - 14:05

If you have a few thousand clients, select one at random every day at 10:13 a.m. and call them.

Christopher Ogg's picture
Christopher Ogg on April 25, 2002 - 14:29

Kevin said: “(I) just try to think of all the wonderful things she (wife Ellie) does for me — but a grunt and couple of moans are not at all uncommon nevertheless.” I think this definitely falls in the category of more information than we need. Reminds me of an old English tale involving an American visitor and his bedtime request to a pneumatic blonde and an unexpected invocation of the queuues at Sainsburys…

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on April 25, 2002 - 17:58

Interesting. If I sent out multiple e-mails to my clients and got 300 client initiated opportunities to speak personally I would be delighted. If my intention was to inform my clients in a clear and concise way and 300 did not understand me I would reconsider my communication vehicle or communication skill.

Peter, you are absolutely right. There is no substitution for personal contact in the service process. With 32 years experience in client service my observations are that with my clients service is most productive (in order)

Personal visit, personal telephone call and written communication. E-mail does not play a part in my client service, with the exception of actually carrying out the mechanical function of responding to client needs

Kevin O's picture
Kevin O on April 25, 2002 - 18:35

Arse!!! Ogg! I’m talking about the grunts and moans that occur spontaneously when I can’t decide whether my head hurts more from clobbering the A-pillar, or my chin from my knee having bounced off the steering wheel, or the doubled over like a thrice-laundered $5.00 bill in the bottom of a pant pocket I haven’t seen for two weeks. What’s with all this reading between the lines? When I’m that doubled over the lines are perfectly juxtaposed in a both a perpendicular and parallel orientation simultaneously

Kevin O's picture
Kevin O on April 25, 2002 - 19:27

With respect Craig, I’d suggest you haven’t gone through this. A simple message like this, “We now have a new price on our Cherry Cola. You can take advantage of the new price if you order by the dozen and do it on-line *here*.”, would generate an amazing array of questions.


We once informed our clientele about new pricing on our standard packages. At that time we had about 600 customers (we have many times that now so it would be worse today). The letter was very simply worded

Kevin O's picture
Kevin O on April 25, 2002 - 19:30

Oh, Pete… on average I drop in personally on at least an average of one client a day — more than half of them unannounced.

Kevin O's picture
Kevin O on April 25, 2002 - 22:08

Oh, Pete… on average I drop in personally on at least an average of one client a day — more than half of them unannounced.

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on April 26, 2002 - 17:03

Clearly my attempt to explain MY logical concept of client service failed. It appears my comments were misunderstood as a challenge to the communication skills of others. Let me try again. If I communicate with my clients and the outcome is undesired, the fault is mine

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on April 26, 2002 - 19:05

Clearly my attempt to explain MY logical concept of client service failed. It appears my comments were misunderstood as a challenge to the communication skills of others. Let me try again. If I communicate with my clients and the outcome is undesired, the fault is mine

Add new comment