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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.