Customer focus must be ignored at all cost!

“Full Service!”  “Total Solution!”  “We handle everything!”  “We are a customer focused company!”  Virtually always, statements like these are a load of hooey.

I’ll start with the moral of the story.  Don’t claim to be customer focused or full service unless you are absolutely certain you fully and completely understand all the details of the customer’s requirements and expectations and can fulfill each one.  Otherwise you’re setting yourself up to look like a hype-spewing, unreliable huckster.

The case in point involves a cancer patient and a caregiver.  The patient is about to be discharged from the hospital and will require some home care.  There’s some natural apprehension on the part of the caregiver regarding the associated procedures and equipment.  Not to worry!  “A care specialist from the home healthcare provider will be here shortly to address all those issues.”

In strides the poised, articulate care specialist.  The opening questions and statements are all absolutely appropriate, compassionate and to the point.  The caregiver (CG) breaths a sigh of relief.  The care specialist (CS) says, “We’ll take care of everything; we’re a full service provider.” Now begins the interesting (and sad) part.

CG:  “That’s really wonderful.  The first thing I’d like to handle is getting a hospital bed delivered to the house.”

CS:  “Oh, we don’t do that.”

CG:  “I see.  How about a bedside commode?”

CS:  “We don’t do that either.”

CG:  “How about a walker?”

CS:  “We don’t do that either.”

CG:  “OK, sounds like ‘everything’ doesn’t include equipment.  How will monitoring for the need of various medications be handled and how will the drugs be administered?”

CS:  “That’s not part of our role.”

Anyone else out there feel like punching CS in the nose?

CS, serving the role of sales rep, right out of the chute assures CG, the customer, that, “We’ll take care of everything,” and proceeds to fail on the first four, absurdly straightforward requests.  Let’s add a little more context to CG’s perception.  Here are the medical service providers involved in this case:

  • A Full Service hospital
  • A Full Service home healthcare company
  • A Full Service discharge planning service
  • A Full Service home healthcare equipment delivery company
  • A Full Service oncology practice
  • A Full Service chemotherapy clinic
  • A Full Service vascular medicine practice
  • A Full Service gynecology practice
  • A Full Service gastro-intestinal medical practice
  • A Full Service endocrinology medical practice
  • A Full Service palliative care medical practice

Count ‘em up.  Eleven Full Service” organizations providing “Full Service” to a single patient.  The only way to characterize any of them as full-service-total-solution-we-handle-everything is to define the requirements in an entirely internally focused, product/service-centric manner. Customer focus must be ignored at all cost!

Think about it sales rep.  You really think you’re any different?  You think you don’t sometimes appear to be as clueless to your customer executives as the eleven organizations noted above?

Sales Lessons From A Roofer

Every now and again I get blown away by a great demonstration of sales and customer service. Had to share this one.

In August, it’s hot in Georgia. The thermometer has topped 90 nearly every day for what seems like forever, and as I write this, it’s 94 degrees out there. The A/C in my house never seems to shut off. This morning, I decided to do something about it. (OK, it was actually my wife who decided I was going to do something about it.)

At 10:45 AM I called Krugman Roofing & Construction.  Chryse, the nice lady who answered the phone, listened to my request for information about attic fans, verified (not, asked for, verified) my address and phone number and told me someone would call back shortly.  Just before 11:00, as I was on another call, the message light on my phone blinked on. I finished that call – yes, I do talk a lot – at 11:40.  After listening to the message from Dave Krugman the owner, I called his cell phone and left a message for him.  I didn’t even have time to think about telephone tag.  Dave called back before I even put the darn thing down.

I’ll cut this part short for brevity’s sake.  Dave started by thanking me for my past business, and mentioning that he considered me among the KRC “friends & family.”  He then talked me out of the pair of attic fans I wanted to have installed, and suggested an insulation solution that was half the cost.  He used actual dollar figures, but I won’t share them here.  You’ll understand why shortly.  Suffice it to say, he led me through a discovery process that caused me to calculate a 4 to 6 month break even point for the investment.  He ended the conversation by saying he’d get back to me with a time someone could come by and take a first-hand look at the situation and again thanking me for being part of his “friends & family.”

Fifteen minutes later Dave calls back and asks if if would be OK for Wes to stop by in an hour.  I say, “OK,” and almost exactly 60 minutes later Wes arrives.  I hadn’t recognized the name, but I knew the face instantly.  Two years ago, Wes was the guy who dropped everything on a Saturday afternoon and fixed the broken water main in my front yard that was performing a fairly accurate impersonation of Old Faithful only non-stop.  Why a roofing guy to fix a water pipe?  Because the six (6!) plumbers I called all promised to be there first thing Monday morning.

Wes Brown

Some more detail is important.  The geyser incident was in September, 2008 on opening day for the University of Georgia football season.  If you’ve ever seen a rabid SEC football fan, you’ll understand what Wes was giving up and what that meant to him.  (He left his GA Bulldogs cap safely in the cab of his truck as he dug through the mudbath formerly known as “Todd’s front yard.”)

The year before that, Krugman replaced my entire roof after a really nasty hail storm beat the daylights out of the old one.  Oh, by way, they also helped with the inspections, certifications, paperwork and gazillion phone calls regarding my insurance coverage.  The year before that, when he was a brand new company, Dave himself patched a small section of my roof that was leaking.

Back to this afternoon…  When Wes hands me the bill, it’s for 20% less than the low end of Dave’s original estimate. My break even with this new (“Friends & Family Booster Club?) price is just over 3 months.  Meanwhile, Wes’ co-worker is cleaning up a few bits of insulation from my driveway and while he’s at it, the leaves and pine needles!

Needless to say, I’m an extremely happy camper.  And the sales lessons here?

  • Remember and thank your customers for their past business
  • Respond Really Rapidly
  • Clearly define the problem that needs solving, consider alternatives and recommend the best one for the customer regardless of your own revenue and profit
  • Under-promise and over-deliver
  • Do whatever it takes (Even if it means missing opening day)

All of us in sales can learn a few things from Dave Krugman.  Anybody in the north Atlanta suburbs in need of home repairs or additions needs to call Krugman Roofing & Construction at 770-917-9130.