Adams Hudson
Adams Hudson

“Service” is a noun, a verb, and a calling. If you believe that last one, there’s a hidden version of service that will make some of you bristle.

But first, we all rail at the car repair place. They must have forgotten it was wrong to charge someone $480 for headlight fluid and waxing the spare tire. Their antics go on public display in negative reviews.

We are irked at the Cable company that told us to wait “sometime between this Tuesday and next April” for the cable dude to appear and hit the red reset button.

We go murderous at being transferred to four different “customer disservice representatives” to tell the exact same story. Each transfer grinds on for 10 minutes of recordings stating they are presently serving other customers.

Then there is a hidden version of bad service where we’re not told that for a little more money we could’ve gotten what we actually wanted. It’s called selling (or upselling), and it is also a service.

A while back, I had a minor house freshening where nearly every tradesperson in town stopped by to shake me upside down while readying our previous home for a historic tour.

How Not to Choose a Contractor

In essence, the “I can do it cheaper” guys all reeked of incompetence. The beat up truck, the lack of a business card, a logoed estimate or invoice, the uncertainty of what was included, and the “I’ll get back to yous” all added up to something hugely avoidable. I do not flaunt overspending; but, I do like value. Service, dear friends, is value.

The tradespeople who offered decipherable, tiered pricing generally got me to the second or first level of their offer. The smart landscaper correctly identified my wife’s pains and offered a nearly do-all service at roughly double the “mow, blow, and go” guy while she gets to work on the fun part of landscaping. (To me, the fun part of landscaping is seeing it done by someone else.)

A Profitable Perspective

I tell you these things to encourage you from a homeowner’s perspective. Tell them what solves their problem, even if it’s not the way you or your techs buy. That doesn’t matter. You solve the problem, and a few more while you’re at it, charging appropriately. That’s not just selling, because, friend, good selling is service.

The poor HVAC company that installed the system at our lake house just never got it. Every year — since we don’t live there year-round — I’d ask, “Do you have a maintenance agreement program so I won’t have to think about this?” and the answer was the same, “Nope. Might get one. Just call us when you need us.” I’d respond, “Can you put it on your calendar to remind me that it’s time for service?” and they’d say, “Well, we could do that, I guess.” That’s more like an imposition than an agreement. And have they called? Nope. Not once in five years.

The joke’s on me as I thought they were the only game in town (since it is kind of remote).

I saw a billboard — yes, a lowly, utterly low-tech billboard — advertising another HVAC company within the area. The company boasted a professional logo, good tagline, and memorable phone number. So my wife called.

Oh my.

Dollars, Dreams, and Delivery

She was elated. The company, started three years ago by two young, motivated friends with a vision, was courteous. The company now includes a handful of eager employees catching that vision — one of whom showed up exactly on time, in a clean truck and crisp uniform.

Check this out, as my wife retold it:

He complimented her on keeping a neat home and said he understood how hard it was to maintain a house by long distance. He remarked that doing this well was a lot harder than most people realized. (Can you hear the “sale as a service” setup coming?)

She asks, “Do you have a maintenance agreement program?” At this point, the harp music started, and a chorus broke through the sunlit clouds as he answered, “Yes. Which level do you think you and your husband would prefer?”

In 15 minutes, we forgot five years of prior disappointment and amateur dismissal. And, in those same minutes, we signed up for a two year plan, which allowed us a discount on a smart thermostat that Kevin — the most beloved HVAC technician in the entire world, from our viewpoint — said was the one he’d put in his home, because, “I know how hard it is to remember to adjust the temperature every time we left or arrived. Plus, those first couple of hours can be uncomfortable. And forgetting just one time between long visit intervals could nearly pay for the thermostat.”

The delivery was so good I almost wept. And it was true, every word.

I’m out about $840 in total. My next-door neighbors — with identical complaints — are about to follow my lead. And the company that never got it will soon be wondering why an ever-increasing number of customers on this side of the lake aren’t calling them anymore.

“It must be the economy,” they’ll mutter. Right. The economy of economy that created their own personal recession. Selling (even upselling) is a service. Let no one tell you differently.

Publication date: 7/7/2014

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