I spent part of the holidays with my cousin Rob, who manages people, materials and systems at New Zealand’s largest bank. He likes to cut to the chase. So when the conversation turned to my handyman business being so busy Rob had the reason.
“You DON'T act like a tradesman, he said. I don’t mean the skill or craft which most tradies are OK at. I mean the stuff that really anoys people.”
This is how Rob found most tradies.
They can’t manage a calandar – how long will a job take?
They can’t manage a watch – when will they turn up?
They can’t manage a calculator – how much will the job cost?
And they can’t communicate – what’s going on and why?
“Your Handyman work is fine and that’s a given. But it’s these four common “trade-weaknesses” that make you different and keep people coming back.”
I've never really thought about it that way but, maybe Rob has a point.
I’ve just come from quoting at a restaurant. The owner needed some tiling done. He had a large sheet of ‘tile’ that needed to be cut neatly into 8 correctly sized new tiles, which would then be glued over the place where old tiles had fallen off. This, like most Handyman jobs, required time, tools and knowledge.
He must have told me 5 times how quick and easy the job would be, forgetting that I had to effectively 'build' 8 tiles. Maybe he thought he could hypnotize me into agreeing, so I would give a low quote.
After years of practice I have a general idea of how long most jobs should take ... but I'm often wrong. 'Unforeseen circumstances' crop up a lot. And because I give a fixed written quote (rather than an hourly rate) my clients don't have to worry about me taking a bit longer.
Not surprisingly my quote didn't fit into the restaurant owners fantasy time scale so we parted ways.
But I’ve kept his number in case I ever need to tell my mechanic or dentist or accountant how long they should take to do their jobs.
I was having coffee with my wife in a café that had recently opened near our home. The coffee was very good BUT …
… I felt like I was in the Sienfeld ‘Soup Nazi’ episode. The owner of the café was making great coffee but in a ‘busy, busy, get moving, don’t interrupt me, I’m an expert’ sort of way. I even heard him lecturing some poor guy about how he should place his order next time!
And that reminded me of the way some Handymen and tradesmen operate. Technical skill alone is not enough. It’s only half the job. The other half is client service.
Clients EXPECT technical skill , but they also LIKE service. Little things like turning up on time, fixing mistakes quickly, cleaning up, respect, listening, politeness … In fact many people would rather have a slightly less polished job as long as they are respected and treated politely.
I wonder if the coffee guy knew that we wouldn’t be returning? Probably not. He would be too busy bossing his customers around to notice.
I’ve just come from a client who was ‘lavish in her praise” as Dale Carnegie would say. It wasn’t my work, or my costs, or my service that this lady appreciated so much. It was simply that I’d turned up when I said I would. That’s it. I said I’ll be there at 9 and I turned up as promised at 9.
Apparently this is such a rare thing these days, that it deserves applause!
Maybe rather than spending millions on consultants and marketing service businesses could just do what they promise.
And on that note I will now call Telstra for the third ... no fourth time.
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