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Eggs!

We bought chicks from TSC in the early spring, kept them in the house, then the barn and finally to the coop.  So far we haven’t lost any of the chickens to predators.  And finally…our first eggs!  Everyone is very excited.



Kittens!

A week or two ago we decided our cat Patches was expecting. Early this morning I saw Patches sneaking through the cow pasture. Then during my board meeting at work, the calls and texts from my kids started rolling in that Patches was in labor and that a kitten was found alone in the hay. When I got home from work, we found Patches buried in a hay bale with one kitten. But a little further investigation and we discovered three more kittens in a different area in the hay bale! Not sure the best thing for them, we all decided to bring them inside and make sure they are dry, warm and all together. Never a dull moment on the farm.
   
    
   
    
   

Pickin’ Up Chicks

We made a trip to Tractor Supply Co and we came home with six red sexed link chicks.  The kids love them and chicks are getting tons of love and attention.  : )

   

    
    
    
    
   

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

The Breakers, post 1: The Best Customer Experience I Have Ever Had

   Last week, my wife and I took our first vacation without kids in over a decade.  We wanted to splurge a little, find a new place with a warm beach, and relax.  We chose The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, FL.  Let me just say that I have never experienced anything like it.  From the time you pull in the quarter-mile long brick drive, you will continually be surprised that any place offers such a customer experience.  I could easily invest a full post into the beauty of The Breakers.  From the flowers to the ceilings to the pools to the ocean views and back to the flowers just because they are that gorgeous…  But it’s not just the beauty that caught me so off guard.  Instead it’s the fact that every single person, from the valet to the concierge to the housekeepers to the wait staff, understands clearly that you are there to be treated like a king.  Not one person ever let me feel any tension in their voice over anything.  Breakers staff members were always around, yet never in my way. 

Every staff member seemed to know my name, and that we were there to celebrate our 14th wedding.  You might wonder if a place that nice might make you feel out of place if that’s not your day to day lifestyle…not once.  Not one time did I ever feel out of place.  I guess I should mention the Breakers is pricey compared to other hotels…but this is not other hotels.  Staying at The Breakers is like staying in your mother’s home where someone is always asking to do things for you.  And I must say that they are spending a huge percentage of your room rate right back out the door on you as the guest.  They hold nothing back and are spending much more of your money on you than you would have expected on staff, flowers, etc.

In my second Breakers post, I will try to drill down on one or two specific things I learned about customer service from my visit.  It won’t be easy to choose.  First, I just needed to get the word out to you that if you visit The Breakers, your concept of customer service will be re-shaped.  By that I mean that we can really only provide our own customers a service level equal to our imagination and past experiences.  The Breakers will seriously re-set the bar for you and you will come back with a dozen new ideas of what you can do to wow your own customers.

Success Is As Natural As Water Flowing Downhill

If you’re like me, you’ve been taught that success is something that you have to hunt down, chase, tackle and hold on to so that it won’t get away.  And because we think that way, we spend our time and energy pursuing success.  We go after it.  We fake it till we make it, right?

I want to challenge that paradigm today.  It’s not consistent with the successful people who I’m around.  Sure they are enthusiastic.  They happen to things instead of waiting to see what happens.  That’s all true.  But here’s the subtle but powerful difference that could really impact you:  Success is a natural product of showing up and doing a good job over a long period of time, like water flowing downhill.  So why are so few small business people successful?  Because we get in the way of the natural flow of success…we interupt success.  If a person calls your decorating business, it’s because they want to pay you for your help.  The sale is yours to lose.  If you will show up on time, have reasonable communication skills and knowledge of what you are doing, and serve their needs, you have a client for life that will tell all of their friends about you. 

But how many times do we take our eye off the ball and forget to do those basic things with excellence?  Have you ever taken off work to meet a person at your house to give you a price to paint or install irrigation or decorate or install new flooring and they were 20 minutes late?  Or when you met, they said they’d email you an estimate later that day that didn’t show up for a week?  Or you tried to call them after your meeting for a quick question and couldn’t get in touch with them for days?  In each of these cases, the natural process of buying was interupted by less than fantastic basic customer service.  But your customer won’t tell you that.  Instead they’ll tell you they are putting the project off for a few months…and you will never hear from them again.  They lost confidence in you and hired someone else and they may not even know why.

I am convinced that if you will focus 90% of all of your time and energy on the most basic business activities, that customers will chase you down to do business with you because this is so rare.  Your customers will pay your higher price, overlook your average looking website and wait on your waiting list if you will show up early, follow-up with every promise you make (big or small) and call them back super fast every time. 

“The person who knows “how” will always have a job.  The person who knows “why” will always be his boss.  ~ Diane Ravitch

Way To Step Up SOUTHWEST!

southwest-dogMy friend recently got stuck on the runway for 2 hours (yuck) due to severe weather.  He knew that air traffic control made the call to ground planes and that it wasn’t Southwest’s fault; but still…2 hours is a long time in a crowded plane.

Check out how Southwest Airlines stepped up and made a raving fan out of a bad situation beyond their control:

 [I love her title!]

 

Greetings from Southwest Airlines:                 

 I’m sorry your flight was caught in the middle of the weather-related mess on April 17.  Heavy rain reduced the visibility and limited the viable air traffic routes from .  Subsequently, we were unable to provide you with timely service and we truly regret the interruption of your travel plans.  Your patience while you waited is greatly appreciated.Houston

Though we may not be able to control Mother Nature or the rate in which Air Traffic Control releases flights, we do have some say in the way we show our appreciation of your valued patronage.  In this regard, I am sending a LUV Voucher to every person traveling with you—I hope this gesture will be accepted as our acknowledgement of the overall frustrations created by this situation.  You can be sure that we are looking forward to seeing you in the days ahead.

Melissa Chalupa, Proactive Customer Svc,

Chick-Fil-A does it again

2072370579_c68bb0db2eActual email sent by a friend of mine to Chick-Fil-A after his wife visited an extremely crowded location this week:

“My wife just called me on the phone to tell me about her CFA experience today. She and her friend decided to brave a very crowded CFA at lunchtime. With 3 kids under 3 they weren’t sure what a good idea this would be. To say they were blown away would be an understatement. They were greeted at the door, had a table found for them. High Chairs were brought to them and their food was carried to their table along with place mats for the kids and anti-bacterial wipes. She couldn’t stop talking about how amazed they were. Great job to the team at Chick Fil A!”

3 Step Marketing Plan For Small Biz

If you’ve ever worked with small business people in area of home maintenance, painting, re-modeling, etc., you have experienced the frustration of people showing up late, or unprepared or not showing up at all.  Well I am in the middle of a painting project that is going so smoothly that I just had to share it with you.

We recently purchased some land with an old farm house on it.  We want to fix it up without overdoing it since we don’t plan to live there full time and we needed the inside of the house painted.  My neighbor is having some painters do some work for him.  And I notice how early they get there each day during the project and he goes on to tell me how hard they have worked, how they’ve gone out of their way to be flexible, that they are great painters and to top it all off they clean up the project area each night after they finish…SOLD!

Sure enough, my project has gone just as smoothly.  They show up very early each day, work extremely hard and consequently get the job done super fast while keeping the quality of the job very high. 

Did I mention how neat there website was?  How catchy their company mission statement is?  How nice their service trucks are?  Or that I’ve ever seen their ads in the yellow pages or on TV?  That’s because it’s not the way people find quality small biz people.  In fact, only one of our painters speaks English; their work trucks are old, they have long hair with lots of piercings…you get the picture.  But let me tell how excited I am to refer Alfonzo and his crew to anyone needing painting work done.  It’s like discovering a fantastic restaurant or seeing a great movie.  You just can’t wait to tell your friends what they have been missing. 

So often, small biz people put so much of their energy into marketing that it distracts them from the things that truly send you quality referral business which is the filet mignon of  the small biz world.  So if you will just do the basics when it comes to marketing (just being able to be found by those looking for you) and put the other 98% of your effort into these three things, you will prosper:

  1. Show up to the site on time or early:  Showing up on time creates trust.  It lets your customer know you are serious about the job.
  2. Do what you say you will do and a little more:  Leave room in your estimate of the job to do a few things at no extra charge.  Find a way to offer your customer just a little more value than you agreed to offer.  My painter painted a closet for me at no additional charge.  Not to be outdone, I tipped him an extra $100 after the job was done.
  3. Work:  No sarcasm intended.  But I’m telling you, Alfonzo’s crew works super hard while they are on the job.  The job goes by fast and it’s fun to go by and see all the progress they’ve made. 
  4. Bonus #4:  Clean up:  If you are doing any type of messy work, leave enough time in your day to clean up your work area as much as possible.  Much like showing up on time at the beginning of the day, cleaning up shows your customer that you care about their project, that you take pride in your work, and it gives them one more thing to tell their neighbors about.

If you’ll learn from Alfonzo’s success, you’ll have the best marketing plan in town!

“Would you like fries with that?”: Upselling serves your customer

 friesfries1

Last week I had a small biz owner come out to clean two chimneys in an old farm house I just bought.  I knew I was going to like him right away because he returned my estimate email very quickly with specific prices & services.  He also said he could clean my chimneys the very next day…my kind of business man!

But here’s what I liked most about the service and what provides you and I a good reminder when it comes to selling.  After he cleaned the chimneys, he also gave me his opinion about some trouble spots I had in the old chimney.  My grate was broken and the mortar inside the chimney was gone, leaving a fire hazard if sparks were to fall to the crawl space below.  And when I asked how much to fix them both, he gave me specific prices.  But the best part is that he had the time and materials to fix the mortar & he just happened to have an iron grate in his truck that he sold me on the spot after showing me how well it fit in my fire place. 

Now to some, it may seem as if he showed up hoping he could up sell me the extra things I needed and make his trip more profitable.  I say…exactly!  He had already gained my trust by serving my needs quickly and professionally, so I valued his opinion.  Could I have saved a few bucks by buying a cheaper grate or bidding out the mortar repair?  Maybe.  But because he had the materials on hand, I didn’t have to think twice.  I was thrilled that he could finish the job I needed.  I appreciated him telling me what else I needed in order to have a safe fire the next day.  I was glad to make his trip more profitable.  And I will refer Chim Chimney to my friends every chance I get.

The lesson is that too often we feel guilty to suggest customers spend any more money than they originally planned.  We make suggestions for the future; but we leave the customer in limbo when they agree to think about it…knowing they won’t think about it and knowing they won’t follow our suggestions.  But I suggest to you this is weak customer service.  If you are the expert, and you know they need the extra product or service, then be bold and tell them they need it.  Then be able to finish the job on the spot.  Customers are starving for small business men and women who will tell them what to do.  Do your customers a favor and show up expecting to provide the value adding upgrades they need.

Take Away:  High integrity experts are highly sought after by your customers.

“One path to your goal is to make it a solution to someone else’s problem”  ~ JBG


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