It was an equally exciting and stressful week for my family as we put our house on the market, moved closer to finalizing the purchase of our new house, embarked on our first family bowling excursion, celebrated Valentine’s Day, and enjoyed a three-day weekend.
Well, my wife, Kelly, and our daughters, Caitlin and Cassidy, enjoyed a three-day weekend. I worked on Monday. A glutton for punishment, I guess. But at least I got to have lunch with my three valentines, pictured above with their Valentine’s Day flowers.
During this weeklong odyssey, some people earned our business and others lost it. Upon further reflection, as someone who notices all the details related to marketing and the customer experience, I thought I’d share exactly how my business was won and lost.
A Tale of Two Insurance Companies
Since Kelly got her driver’s license, she’s always used the same auto insurer. It’s a company that only operates in New Jersey. I switched my auto insurance when we got married and we bought homeowner’s insurance through the same company so all of our coverage would be under the same umbrella.
We needed to get a quote for homeowner’s insurance for the new house and get that squared away for the mortgage company. Kelly is loyal to her insurance company and asked what they would need to provide a quote.
The insurance rep’s response? “40 minutes on the phone.”
Suddenly, Kelly wasn’t feeling as loyal. She pointed out that we had received a quote from another company, and all they needed was some basic information. They researched the rest on their own.
The insurance rep’s response? “If you move your homeowner’s insurance to a different company, you won’t get the bundle discount.”
He obviously didn’t consider the possibility that we may switch our auto insurance policies, too.
Kelly’s response? “You realize you’re making our decision very easy, right?”
The other company Kelly spoke of was AllState. I’ve become friends with a local rep through a networking group, and he provided me with a quote – more as a courtesy for comparison purposes because we had no intention of switching.
Three things ultimately led us to switch anyway.
First, the New Jersey company never reviewed any of our policies with us in the seven-plus years that we’ve owned our home.
Second, they had access to the same information as the AllState rep but required a 40-minute phone call to provide a quote. Maybe the rep from the New Jersey company was a contact center agent and not properly trained. Maybe AllState has more resources. Or maybe this particular AllState rep was willing to work harder to earn my business.
Third, AllState will save us more than $400 per year on auto insurance while providing more coverage.
Game. Set. Match.
Thank you, Jon Castaneda from AllState, for making our lives easier. We’re glad to be working with you.
A Tale of a Waiter Who Just Didn’t Give a Crap
The family went out to dinner the night before Valentine’s Day to celebrate. With a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, we like to avoid crowds.
My issues with the waiter began from the moment we ordered. He breezed through the soup options, and I asked him to repeat the second one.
He wasn’t sure of the order in which he listed the soups, which was understandable enough. But instead of repeating them, he dropped a menu in front of me, pointed to the soups, and said, “If you’re not sure, you could just get the salad.”
I couldn’t tell if that was a weak attempt at humor, so I brushed it off.
After we finished our soups and noticed people who sat down after us receiving their entrees, the waiter returned to our table with the bad news.
“I apologize for the delay. Someone else ordered the exact same thing as you,” he said. “Another server picked up the order, so they have to prepare your food again.”
Dripping with sarcasm, I said, “Wow, what are the odds?”
I also gave him what my daughter, Caitlin, refers to as an eye message. That’s what you do in kindergarten when you don’t approve of someone’s behavior.
Mistakes happen. But don’t insult my intelligence by saying another party ordered two very specific pasta dishes and two mini pizzas from the children’s menu.
After another 20 minutes, we finally received our food. At this point, Caitlin and Cassidy were climbing the walls.
As I waited for the check, the couple in the booth across from us, also with two young kids and sympathetic to our cause, mentioned that the same thing happened to them last week and the restaurant comped their entire check.
I figured I would give the waiter a chance to address the situation before I said something.
So I said, “Can you take something off of the check for the delay?”
Stumbling, the waiter said, “Uh, let me go ask my manager.”
No apologies, by the way, since initially telling us that our meal would be delayed. And none would be forthcoming. He cracked a few lame jokes about it, but didn’t apologize.
He returned and said, “I took off one of the children’s meals.”
That saved us about $5. I have doubts about whether he actually spoke to the manager, who walked by our table seconds later and said nothing.
I gave the waiter another eye message. I figured the oversized zero where I would normally leave a generous tip would adequately convey my feelings.
If you mess up, be honest with the customer. Apologize profusely. Act like you care. And make it right.
Otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll lose that customer’s business.
A Tale of Three Florists
I took it down to the wire when I ordered Valentine’s Day flowers for Kelly and the girls. I ordered on Friday for Valentine’s Day on Sunday. After a few bad experiences with the national chains, I’ve been ordering directly through a local florist with great results.
That’s why I was so disappointed when the local florist’s website wouldn’t load. I tried at different times. I tried on different browsers. I tried on my phone.
Then I gave up.
Determined to support a local florist, I found another florist in town. I chose a bouquet. I went to set up delivery but couldn’t click on Valentine’s Day.
No days on weekends were clickable, so I assume this was a glitch in the system. Maybe they’re closed on weekends for some reason. Based on my experience, it looks like most local florists use the same ordering system and user interface.
So I moved on to a third local florist. I chose a bouquet. I entered my credit card information. When I set up delivery, I left instructions to place the flowers inside the storm door if nobody answers the door.
Within minutes of placing the order, I received a personal email from the president of the company. She wanted to warn me that placing the flowers inside the storm door on such a cold day could damage the flowers.
I quickly responded to thank her for the heads up and let her know that the chances of nobody answering the door were slim. I just wanted my girls to get their flowers.
Which they did. And they were perfect.
There are two lessons here. First, if you work in an event-driven industry in which demand for your services spikes at certain times of year, you need to be ready.
I’m sure these local florists were prepared in terms of inventory and staff, but it’s unfortunate that nobody confirmed that the website and online ordering system were properly configured or ready to handle heavy traffic.
Second, a simple, personal note from a service provider who wants to make sure her customer is happy can go a long way towards earning said customer’s loyalty.
Thank you, Karen Vernon-Stewart of Petal Pushers in Hamilton, for a frictionless ordering experience, a note to show you care, and flowers that made my three valentines very happy.
The Difference Between Winning and Losing
Jerry Rice is football’s all-time leading receiver in just about every major statistical category. Defensive backs sometimes tell training camp stories about how other receivers would catch a quick pass, run a few steps, and then jog back to the huddle.
Rice would catch a quick pass and sprint 80 yards to the end zone. Full speed. Every. Single. Time.
His philosophy was that he expected to score a touchdown every time he touched the ball. He didn’t score every time, but he did score 197 touchdowns in his career – 41 more than any other receiver in history.
Winning and losing, in sports and in business, usually comes down to effort, attitude, planning and attention to detail. When it comes to dealing with customers, you can add transparency and proactive troubleshooting to the mix.
Sometimes what you do in a single moment can have just as much impact on winning or losing someone’s business as your long-term strategy.
The most successful organizations take neither for granted.