Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Nurturing Thunderbeast!: Customers and TLC

I drive a '96 Thunderbird with 230,000 kilometres on it, nicknamed "Thunderbeast!".  I recently began a new assignment that will take me from almost never driving to work, to putting about 50,000 km annually on Thunderbeast!  I hope to get two more years out of it.  Her.  "Thunderbeast!"  (raises right fist, punches the air)

There are two kinds of people who should ALWAYS drive a beater (old car):

  • A young man's first car should be a beater.  (Sorry, but I prefer that a young lady drive a safe and reliable vehicle at all times.)
  • A salesperson's personal vehicle, if circumstances allow.  Failing that, he should never forget the lessons learned as a young man in his first car.
When you drive a beater you develop important habits.
  • Always be attuned to the details.  One annoying squeal can turn into one huge repair if not dealt with promptly.  If you disregard a customer who's trying to get your attention for too long he will let you know in catastrophic, expensive ways.
  • Some things are nice-to-haves, some things are have-to-haves (the difference between a functioning radio and functioning ABS brakes.)  Review your relationship with your customer regularly.  Maybe the have-to-have's of yesterday are the nice-to-have's of today, and she'll appreciate you taking the initiative to suggest it.  Maybe she's missing some have-to-have's but doesn't know it.
  • Check the important things frequently, like oil and other fluid levels, tire air pressure, brake pads, tire wear, etc.  Do regular maintenance.  You wouldn't let your old car go more than 5000 km without an oil change, and yet we regularly let our best customers go months without a check-in to ensure they're being looked after properly.
  • Some things don't need to be fixed, they just need to be jimmied.  Like a door key that works only if you turn it only a certain way.  Sure, you could invest in a new mechanism or you could just adjust your style.  Friendships and relationships, personal and professional are a lot like that, and the new guy trying to win the business isn't going to know the inside stuff.  Our clients should know we're part of their inner circle by the way things happen intuitively, and it doesn't hurt to point that out.
    • Of course, you're not doing anybody any favours by ignoring the things that just need to be fixed.  Let's just be honest with each other, we'd both be better off if we address that nagging detail we're pretending not to notice, even though it drives us both crazy.  Good friends can speak plainly.
  • NEVER drive your old beater past a dealership lot full of new vehicles while you stare at them with lust in your heart.  A beater is like your long established customer - if they sense you're playing them, you will wish you had never even let the thought cross your mind, and rightly so. 
Come to think of it, this is all good advice for a marriage , and yes, I am the old Thunderbeast in the driveway of our 30 odd years together.  Insert your own metaphor here.

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