Save your clients some anguish and pain.  Give them World Class Customer Service.It was late Sunday morning, the day after the snowstorm that dropped record levels of snow on Ohio. There was over two feet of snow on the ground and I needed this stuff off the driveway if I was planning to do any driving the next day.

We have a guy contracted to plow the snow. We’ll call him “Bob”. In fact, Bob has contracts for several homes in the neighborhood.
Well, the snow pretty much stopped falling Saturday night and I was expecting Bob to be out in the middle of the night to clean up the drives in his territory. From what I’ve seen in the past, this is standard operating procedure for most of these private snow removal contractors.

But my 11:00 AM Sunday, I had managed to finish two cups of coffee while admiring the 3-foot snow drifts engulfing the drive. Those drifts weren’t going away until somebody took some action.

So, I strapped on my boots, donned my gloves, and dove right into the work of moving snow.

While I was out moving the snow out of the way, I saw that my next door neighbor had hired out the kids across the street to move some of his snow. I also noticed that my other neighbor had hired out some kids to clean up the driveway skirt while he had pushed the snow from in front of his garage.

Both of my neighbors use Bob’s snow removal services.

Did I miss the memo here?

My original plan was merely to move the snow out of the hard-to-reach places and leave the “heavy lifting” for Bob when he showed up. After two hours of work, I saw Stan, the neighbor on the other side of the fence who had hired the kids across the street.

After talking with Stan about the weather, he told me that Bob’s truck had broken down. Stan had tried to contact Bob on his landline and his cell phone but failed in both attempts. He then called another neighbor who uses Bob’s snow removal services. Turns out that this neighbor knows someone who lives next to Bob and once this neighbor got the news about Bob’s truck from his friend, he passed the information on to Stan.

That was why Stan hired the kids across the street to clean out his drive. It was the same reason that my other neighbor hired a set of kids to clear the snow from the driveway skirt.

And that was why my original plan went out the window and I found myself committed to clearing off the entire drive of about 900 cubic feet of snow if I wanted to use my car.

After spending another three hours cleaning the drive and getting 90% finished, Bob showed up. He drove up in his little converted Bronco, took the remaining 10% of the snow left on my drive, scattered it on the section I had cleaned off, and packed it down as he drove on top of it. That added another 45 minutes to the total time for me to finish clearing the driveway.

But Bob never showed up at Stan’s place. Didn’t even stop to say, “Hey, I’m sorry I didn’t show up earlier. What can I do to make it up to you? How about a voucher for stoop sweeping?” He just drove off leaving Stan frustrated and angry.

So, if you really want to anger your clients on a massive level, try following these steps:
  1. In an emergency when they really need your services, don’t contact your clients. Instead, have them hunt you down. It would have cost Bob almost nothing to call his clients and say, “Hey, I’m having a little bit of trouble here. But don’t worry. I will be there just as soon as I take care of this emergency. I will have your drive cleaned off before nightfall.”
  2. Be inaccessible. Not only did Bob not call his clients, he couldn’t be reached at all. Stan called his landline and his cell phone. Both were “out of service”. The only way we found out about Bob’s truck was that Stan knew somebody who knew somebody who lived within walking distance of Bob. The biggest snowstorm in Ohio in 100 years and this guy is MIA and out of reach.
  3. Do a half-baked job when you do show up requiring your client to do additional clean up work. Does Bob just not care or is he completely out of touch? Bob didn’t just spread what was left of the un-shoveled snow over the area that I had already cleared. He pushed some of the left over snow at the end of the drive and blocked the skirt where my neighbor paid some kid to clear out earlier that day. My neighbor was one shade shy of being boiling mad when he discovered what had happened.
  4. Make up some lame excuse as to why you can’t get the job done. I understand that stuff happens. My car breaks down as well. That’s why I get it serviced on a regular basis. When I know that I have a big trip coming up, I’ll take it in to the shop to get it looked over. This truck is Bob’s livelihood. And it’s not as if this storm jumped out of the weeds and bit us on the left thigh. Weather forecasters had been tracking this massive storm for two days before it’s arrival. If I’m watching the weather channel and see them forecasting a big storm moving my way, the first thing I’d do would be to make sure my snow removal equipment is ready for action. But that’s me. Maybe his cable TV broke down as well.
  5. Don’t admit when you’ve made a mistake. It was bad enough for Bob to not call and inform his clients about his situation. But to completely ignore Stan when he finally did show up? He could have at least stopped and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t make it. I see you had someone else do your drive. What can I do to make it up to you?” It takes personal fortitude to stand up within yourself, admit when you are wrong and try to make things right. Bob took the easy way out and ran away.

If you don’t want to anger your clients and you actually want to keep your customers, then the real challenge is to focus on opportunities and not problems. I don’t know how Bob viewed this storm. Maybe he saw it as a big problem and just wasn’t motivated to help his clients through this monster event. Maybe it was just poor planning on his part. In any event, he didn’t see it as an opportunity. However, groups of neighborhood kids saw this as a major opportunity. They were out in droves with big smiles on their faces, snow shovels in hand and stuffing money in their pockets as they went from door to door offering their services. I would have hired one or two of them except I saw this as my own opportunity to shed a few pounds in preparation for the Cleveland Marathon.

As an entrepreneur, small businessperson, or sales rep, you do not want the competition to take advantage of a major opportunity in your core market.

Next year when Bob comes out to renew contracts or ask for new business, I have a feeling that my neighbors won’t remember the times that he showed up on time or provided any extra effort to keep the business. What they will remember is the Blizzard of ’08 when they had to shovel their own snow. I know that’s what I will remember.
So, if you want to anger your clients and lose your customers, use these 5 tactics. If you want to keep your clients, look for opportunities that you can leverage, offering a decent service for decent pay. Then, go here and learn more about world-class customer service.