The Personal Touch Wins

I was reminded of one of my earliest and most important business lessons last week.

One of my first jobs was a paper boy.  I loved it.  I got up early, which I still like to do, and made a lot of money, which is also a fun thing.  Collecting payment was not a fun task.  I swear people pretended not to be home.  The “I want my $2” scene from the movie Better Off Dead could have been played by me or any other paper boy or girl. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsxJfcFVnpo)

I was out collecting one day.  I screwed something up and ended up stopping at a prepaid customer’s house.  We weren’t supposed to collect from prepaid customers.  By the time I realized my mistake, the door was already open.  I swear the guy was six foot five and a chiseled two hundred and seventy-five pounds.  As I soiled myself, he sternly said, “What the *$() do you want?”  I gathered my composure and said, “Hi Mr. Jones, I’m Brian Gale.  I’m your paper boy.  I just wanted to make sure you were satisfied with my service.”  He had a startled look on his face, said, “Wait here,” and shut the door.

I had no idea what was going to happen next.  It seemed like I stood there for an eternity.  He came back, handed me a twenty dollar bill and said, “As long as you keep my paper on my porch and keep it dry, we’ll have a great relationship.”  I think I mumbled thank you and hurried on.  To an eleven year old boy, twenty bucks was a fortune!

I started stopping at every prepaid customer’s house.  I didn’t always have positive results, but I learned a lesson: check in on your customers.

Last week, I was in my car.  I had traded phone calls with a friend.  As background, my wife says I mumble quite a bit.  I activated the blue tooth in my car and asked to call my friend.  Again, not paying attention, before I knew it, I had dialed a customer.  His name is nothing like my friend’s name.  It was ringing before I could hang up.  I didn’t want to say I didn’t mean to call him, so I said I just wanted to check to see how he was doing and how our company was doing.  He was floored.  I don’t know if we’ll get additional business or not, but we had a great conversation and I learned a little about him and his business.

Especially in times of turmoil, reach out to your customers.  Say hi.  Ask how they’re doing.  The personal touch will set you apart from your competition.

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