With Memorial Day weekend behind us and temperatures in the upper 80’s and low 90’s summer has “unofficially” arrived. A time to relax a little, enjoy the sun, surf and backyard BBQs. It’s a great time of year, unless your air conditioner isn’t working.
And mine has not been. It’s been hot and uncomfortable…not so fun.
As a result I had to hire a company to replace our unit. We had a few bids and thought we had chosen a company to do the work. Unfortunately for us the first opening for installation wasn’t for almost two weeks. Turns out a lot of people were experiencing the same problem.
I didn’t actually use the company I originally planned on.
I’m going to share the story of how I found the contractor who ultimately installed my new air conditioner because it illustrates a few key lessons for small business owners and professional service providers.
So back to my story…
A few days later I went to a local jewelry store to have a watch battery replaced. Turns out the jeweler also needed his heating and cooling system replaced. I asked who he was using and if he had the contractor’s contact information.
He didn’t have it with him but he took my name and number and told me he’d call me that night when he got home from work to give me the contractor’s name and phone number. At 6:00 p.m. he called me with the information. Two lessons here…
Lesson #1: Do what you say you are going to do.
Calling me took the jeweler five minutes. He could have blown it off or forgot, but he followed through and I appreciated it.
So whether you tell a customer you’ll do something or claim what you do in your marketing materials…actually do it.
Lesson #2: Be helpful.
Calling me and sharing the contractor’s information didn’t help the jeweler, but it was helpful to me. I will continue patronizing this small local jewelry store not only because they offer good service in their store but because this person went above and beyond in a situation that had absolutely nothing to do with his business.
Takeaway: Doing what you say you’ll do and being helpful results in loyal, repeat business and referrals.
So I call this contractor and he comes out to give us an estimate. He’s personable and professional. We were happy with the quote and the timeframe (he could install the system sooner than the larger company we were originally going with), so we hired him.
Lesson #3: Solve your customer’s problem.
My house was hot. We were sweaty and uncomfortable. We were going to spend close to two weeks that way. Not anymore. Our house would be cool and comfortable within forty-eight hours.
Takeaway: Customers choose you because you can solve their problem.
As a small business owner you can also show empathy for your customer’s problem. Our new contractor sympathized with our situation. The bigger company didn’t really care that we had to wait close to two weeks for installation.
The next day the contractor came out with a contract to sign and to get a deposit so he could purchase the unit. This could have been a ten minute transaction. Instead we get talking and I find out he is looking to expand his business and needs help with his website and marketing.
In our casual conversation he learns that’s what I do. I pick up my iPad and we look at his website (which I had looked at before hiring him and it did need some work) and I point out a few areas of improvement that would help him grow his business. He is now hiring me to do the work for him.
This brings me to…
Lesson #4: Tell everyone what you do.
Share with people what you do, not always in a formal, networking way, just a casual conversation. You never know where your next job, project or client will come from.
Takeaway: People can’t hire you if they don’t know about your services and you never know when someone will need what you provide.
Lesson #5: Be professional and do a good job.
Do the best work you can. Be courteous, professional and easy to work with.
Contractors don’t always have the best reputation and I dislike having contractors in my house. But the air conditioning contractor was personable and respectful of my home. He did good work and took pride in his work. He explained what he was doing, answered any questions I had, returned phone calls and cleaned up when he was done.
I would refer him to anyone who needed a new cooling and heating system installed.
Takeaway: Doing good work results in referrals and word of mouth advertising. And keep in mind that works both ways. Do a poor job and people will talk about it.
The contractor and I were talking about word of mouth referrals and he mentioned to me a past job he had done in a large neighborhood turned into eight other jobs. How? That neighborhood has its own Facebook page where residents share information with one another. Based on the positive comments the first customer posted on Facebook, the contractor landed eight more jobs in that neighborhood over a two-year period.
As for me, I’m happy to have AC back. The whirring of the unit as it kicked on was a sweet sound.
This has also provided a lesson in gratitude…be thankful for help when you need it and appreciate things in life that we often take for granted, like a cool, comfortable house on a hot summer day.
What marketing or business lessons have you learned or been reminded of in unexpected places or situations? Let us know.