Volume 9, Issue 4 - August/September 2007

Customer Service
tips for quality service

So, What’s New?
by Carl Tompkins

So, what’s new? That is one of the most enjoyable questions I ask when I visit any company within our AGRR industry. So much can be learned from such a short, simple inquiry. What do you think is the most common answer I receive? Even better, how would you answer if it were your company that I was questioning?

Well, if you guess that “not much” is the most common answer, you’re exactly right! 

The second most common answer is “Same old, same old.” 

Eliciting Responses
When I have the time and haven’t become too depressed, I pursue such responses with, “Oh, come on! Something has had to happen since last time we met! Lay it on me!” Following a very short period of thought I’ve received the response, “Well, I got another letter from State Farm saying that they want a lower price.” 

On to a better story and set of responses, one company said, “We did it!” that followed with as broad smile and expression of accomplishment. The company’s manager had spent time with a group of like-minded glass shop owners to get anti-steering legislation passed. (This same company owner has a famous baseball pitcher promote its retail business to consumers through television and radio.) The glass shop told me how it picked up six new insurance agencies through a continuing education seminar it conducted two months earlier. The same manager told me how the shop had just joined its local Rotary Club chapter and was getting a lot of referrals through its newly found community involvement. The same owner told me how he resurrected a state auto glass association that has incorporated AGRSS heavily into its realm of membership.

He shared five stories with me that lead to my next question: “And, how is business?” He reported adding three new technicians and was very happy with his growth in sales and profit. 

While everyone would like improved margins, he found that the margins were much better than what he had to work with in his previous years of experience within another industry.

New Blood
I left this visit feeling great. Wow, what a pleasure to hear such success stories and all due to five activities that the manager completed. The owner of this company is relatively new to the AGRR industry, and it has caused me to think: maybe the industry is in need of many more new faces with new ideas, new points of view and a better perspective on what it takes to succeed, compared to masses of people that insist on trying to make the AGRR industry of today what it was 20 or 30 years ago. 

A major thing that is new is that the AGRR industry is not going to be the AGRR industry of old! So, if you’re an old-timer, it’s time to start becoming a “new-timer” if you’re going to survive with a pocket of money, your health and a spirit of accomplishment. 

Talk is Cheap’
If you’re suddenly motivated to make a change for the better, on behalf of yourself, your company and your industry, allow me to provide a few tips to help you. My simple advice is to “do something!” This instruction reminds me of one of the most hilarious (but true) quotes I’ve ever heard. It came from former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who said, “There are three types of people in the world: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what in the hell just happened!” 

When I say “do something,” I’m talking about making sure to do at least one thing different and better for your company than you did last month. Be a person who makes it happen, in both your choices and activities, and be sure that you do something good, which always will yield something good.

Johnny Unitas, one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever to play the game, was a person of very few words. His fellow Baltimore Colts would make big motivational speeches to the fellow team members prior to an important game in order to excite each other into a super performance. 

Prior to taking the field, Coach Don Shula would look to the quiet Unitas and ask, “Is there anything you want to add, Johnny?” For his entire career he had the same answer, “Talk is cheap. Let’s play the game!” 

I share this because most people in our industry make the mistake of talking a good game but never taking the field. More specifically, I hear, “Oh yeah, I’m going to do that as soon as I get back to the office.” The person may have good intentions, but the promised action never takes place. 

Then we move into the realm of hearing all the excuses: “well, something happened,” or “don’t worry, I’ll get to it” or, my favorite, “I ran out of time.” The reality is that none of this is relevant. The truth is that what was promised wasn’t really believed to be important at all. And when I go back next month and ask, “What’s new?” remarkably the answer again will be “not much.”

Taking Action
What are some straightforward actions you can take that will lead to a much more pleasant and rewarding response? How about something as simple as going to meet one new customer? How about re-organizing your operations to be AGRSS-compliant? How about calling five customers and personally thanking them for their business and asking them how their experience with your company was? How about making sales calls to insurance agents one day a week? How about renting a booth at a local trade show fair? How about having a cup of coffee with each of your three employees next month? How about walking around to each employee daily and thanking them for what they do? How about having a potluck dinner at your house next Thursday night for all your employees? How about taking a vote and providing a prize to the employee coming up with the best idea of the week? How about getting involved with your glass association again? And, don’t go just to fill a chair—go and make a contribution with action. Probably the best and most powerful action would be this: a short moment of prayerful thanks for what you’ve received and the promise to take action on future opportunities provided to you.

With any or this entire list being undertaken, I promise you great results and improved answers to the question, “So, what’s new?” 

Carl Tompkins is the Western states area manager for Sika Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash. Mr. Tompkins’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

AGRR
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