I recently had the pleasure of attending the 73rd annual Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) Convention in Phoenix. My trip down to Arizona wasn’t so great, however. My nonstop flight took off from Detroit Metro Airport with no problems. Fast-forward four hours later to our descent into Phoenix. We had almost touched down on the runway when all of our sudden, our plane accelerated and started climbing back into the sky like something out of the movie, “Top Gun.”

Now, I was slightly alarmed already when the pilot came over the speaker apologizing to passengers. “Sorry about that folks. There seems to be a plane that couldn’t find its way off of our runway.” Excuse me, what did you just say? My anxiety level immediately ramped up as ‘what ifs’ ran through my mind while our plane circled around the desert for another half-hour before landing safely at the airport. The pilot’s cavalier apology didn’t make me feel any better about the situation. And the airline’s customer service left much to be desired.


I thought about this experience during one of the many excellent educational programs at the convention. During the Residential Contractors Forum, Brigham Dickinson, president and founder of Power Selling Pros, discussed, “The Power of Selling an Experience” and how businesses must work to wow their customers or lose them to the lowest bidder.

Dickinson used some of the top brands in customer service as ranked by Consumer Reports. Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Chick-Fil-A, and Amazon topped the list. What do two online retailers, a fast food restaurant, and an airline have in common?

“It’s phenomenal customer service,” Dickinson said. “It’s about being awesome. When people walk away, they go, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’”

Consumers are looking for convenience and wow experiences. And in today’s internet age, Amazon offers both. Companies have to adapt and change in order to keep up with new technology. If they don’t, they become obsolete and go the way of the dinosaur. Take Blockbuster Video or Borders for example. Once thriving businesses with locations in every major city, both are now extinct. Blockbuster had the chance to change with the times and embrace technology when it was offered the chance to purchase Netflix back in 2000, but the company declined the offer thinking it was a small niche business. The internet streaming service reached the 50 million mark in subscribers and became available in 40 countries last year, according to Business Insider.

Amazon has done the same to the bookstore industry. Borders permanently closed its doors and Barnes & Noble has decreased the number of its locations from 798 in 2008 to 640 as of early this year. And now Amazon is taking on Netflix by offering its streaming video service, Prime Video, for $8.99 a month – $1 less than what Netflix charges for its standard price tier.

Dickinson warned HVACR contractors not to think internet giants like Amazon won’t impact their own businesses. Last year, Amazon launched Amazon Home Services, offering 15 million service listings across more than 900 professional services, including HVAC. The key to differentiating yourself in your market is through customer service, Dickinson noted.

He pointed to Chick-Fil-A as an example with how employees walk by your table to make sure you’re happy with your meal and refill your drink, if needed.

“Whatever you do, make sure you do it well,” he said. “Do it better than anyone else. When you do, it makes you feel good, and your customers will come back for more because they respect your capability to deliver a consistent, quality product and service.”

So, the moral of my little story is, when the boss magnanimously sends me to the 74th Annual SMACNA Convention next year in Maui (wishful thinking here), I’ll be selecting a different airline – one that places the customers’ safety first.

Publication date: 11/14/2016

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