I was recently geocaching at a park with my family (if you don’t know what geocaching is, it’s great fun for all ages; you can learn more at www.geocaching.com). After finding all the geocaches at that particular park, we left to go to another, but I stopped at a drive-thru Starbucks along the way for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

When I pulled up to the window, the chipper barista informed me that the person in front of me had just paid for my drink. Of course, my first thought was, “Wahoo, free coffee!” and then, “Wow, that was nice of them.” I mean, really, who does that these days?

As I sat there waiting for my grande soy one-pump sugar-free caramel espresso frappuccino (it’s delicious, trust me), a car pulled up behind us in line. I glanced at the car in my rear-view mirror, then at my son in the back seat, then over at the drive-thru window. Hmmm.

A moment later, when the barista handed me my drink, I handed her my credit card. She waved it away and said, “You’re all taken care of, remember?”

“I know, but I want to buy their order for them,” I replied, nodding to the car behind us.

She smiled, swiped my card, and told me to have a nice day. Meanwhile, my son, who had been quietly observing the whole interaction, asked, “Why did you do that, mom?”

I shrugged, “Because someone did something nice for us, honey, and it wouldn’t be good to just let the niceness end there, would it?” He shook his head, absorbing what I’d said.

That evening, as we were leaving the grocery store, he saw an elderly woman with a walker and two bags of groceries slowly making her way to her car. He pulled on my hand and asked if he could go help her. I nearly burst with pride as he skipped over to carry her bags, chatting with her all the way to her car.

So, what does this have to do with HVAC? Everything — especially for the technicians in the field who interact with people face to face every day. Going the extra mile and doing something nice and unexpected can not only elicit a smile from your customer — it can guarantee you a customer for life.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewing Bryan Rominger for a profile on El Cajon, Calif.-based Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air, where Rominger is the HVAC service manager. Since Anderson routinely wins awards for excellence in customer service, I asked him what sets their technicians apart.

Instead of giving a generic answer like, “We always put the customer first,” or, “The customer is always right,” he told me a story about a repair call he’d gone out on a few years ago at the home of an elderly woman.

As he was finishing up, Rominger noticed she had a nice-looking older car parked in her driveway. He also noticed it obviously hadn’t been driven in a while and was covered in dust and bird droppings. So, Rominger, with the help of another tech, grabbed a hose and washed the woman’s car.

“It only took a few minutes, but it meant so much to her, and it shows we’re not just there to collect money,” he said. “I just want to have happy customers.”

After that, the company adopted random acts of kindness and began an annual contest where customers can nominate someone in need of pro-bono HVAC or plumbing work.

Now, I’m not saying your technicians should be washing all of their customers’ cars or buying coffee for everyone at Starbucks, but when an opportunity presents itself to go beyond what is expected, why not seize it? Why not go that extra mile and do something nice for your customers — or for anyone, for that matter? Only good can come from it.

Publication date: 8/12/2013 

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!