My wife has been up in the Pacific Northwest for a few weeks, renovating a house that we invested in about eight years ago. We’ve had two long-term tenants in that time, and we decided to do some updates and maintenance before the next family moves in. One of the bathrooms had an issue with a leaking tub, so she went to the local plumbing supplier for some recommendations. They gave her several which didn’t pan out, but one of the neighbors suggested she call a Very Big Name company that made their reputation on the slogan, “The Customer is Always Right.” So, she did.
A couple of days later, two sales people arrived and spread out a thick briefing book that explained their services. But first, they spent about forty minutes warning her that she should not deal with small, independent local plumbers because, as a group, they are untrustworthy, unlicensed, uninsured, and ill-equipped to do any significant task. My wife ran out of patience and asked, “Don’t you guys want to look at the bathroom?” When she insisted, they looked, nodded, and went back to the table to write up their estimate: $7,900 for labor, plus the cost of the tub. However, they offered a $500 discount, presumably because she was nice, and another $400 cash back if she signed a contract right then and there. So she sent them packing. She eventually found a local, independent plumber who will do the job for $1,300.
Moral of the story: your customer (or stakeholder) doesn’t care about your opinion of your competition. They care about cost, quality, and being treated with respect. They also care about their time – don’t waste it.
On the same trip, she rented a car from a national chain. It was a good car, at a great price, and she was very happy. Then she received a call early one morning, from someone conducting a customer satisfaction survey. When the caller asked if she was happy with the car rental company, my lovely wife replied, “I was, until you woke me up.”
Moral of the story: if you want to get feedback from your customer (or stakeholder), let them choose the time. Solicit via Email, post card, survey form attached to the receipt, or any number of other asynchronous techniques. But remember that any response is a favor, for which you should be grateful. Don’t antagonize the 10% to 15% who will be willing to take a few minutes to help you improve your service.
And yes, it’s good to have my occasional project manager home again!