New Doors, But Old Habits
We recently replaced the doors in our main building. The door contractor took care of almost everything; the only thing he didn’t do was paint the doors.“You’ll need to get a good coat of paint on those doors before winter, otherwise they’ll be subject to corrosion when the snow flies,” he advised us. “You’ve spent a lot of money, now protect your investment against the rain, snow, and salt.”
Yea, OK. As the owner of our commercial real estate, it falls upon me to deal with building-related projects that maintain the value of our holdings, but don’t particularly advance our primary business of printing books, manuals, and publications. Our new doors enhance safety and functionality and keep our plant looking spiffy but aren’t nearly as exciting as a new press or a new customer.
“Don’t forget that we need to paint the doors,” reminded Evelyn, who coordinates our routine physical plant maintenance and generally keeps me on track. She didn’t have a vendor in mind, so it was up to me to make this happen. Not the highest and best use of my time, but it needed to be done. I made a snap decision.
“Call Pete,” I told her.
Pete the painter has done work for me off and on for ages. I first met him when he did some paperhanging in my home. José, who worked for Pete, was a meticulous craftsman. Once José left Pete’s employ, the quality of Pete’s work became erratic, depending mostly on whomever Pete had working for him at the time.
Painting an industrial building isn’t rocket science, so each time I moved Copresco to a new or additional facility, I called Pete out of habit. His work was usually good enough.
As time passed, Pete became less and less interested in the day-to-day operation of his business. He sent over crews with minimal supervision. The last time I used him was several years ago, to paint my house.
The work (but not the price) was, frankly, substandard — more on par with what I would have expected from college students painting on summer break. I complained, he apologized profusely, and redid the work so it was acceptable.
I was disappointed, but not surprised. I probably should have shopped around for a new painter, but I don’t paint things very often. Now I once again need a painter, and this time the minor project just doesn’t warrant a lot of time and effort.
So, once again, I call Pete.
Note the words and phrases used previously: erratic, habit, good enough, acceptable. The overall theme of my narrative is one of mediocrity at best. I’ll bet none of you want to hire Pete after reading this. Fact is, I couldn’t in good conscience recommend him for anything but the simplest of projects, even though he is a really nice guy.
I’m sure Pete would be hurt to know that I have such an unenthusiastic opinion of his work. He doesn’t know, though, because he is oblivious to such things.
I’ll bet if you asked him about me, he would tell you that I’m a longtime customer and personal friend. I’ll bet he assumes that he gets all my work. He’s right, but for all the wrong reasons. I’ll bet he considers me a satisfied customer. I’m clearly not, but it isn’t clear to him. If I weren’t satisfied, why would I keep coming back?
I keep coming back because I don’t have an alternative. I’m too lazy or too busy to research and find another painter, so I use Pete.
How many of your customers are delighted with your service? It isn’t hard to tell. Happy customers exhibit behaviors that show their satisfaction.
They regularly recommend you to others. They write you thank-you notes and emails. They place orders without asking for estimates and issue blanket purchase orders. They endorse you on social media without being asked to do so. They ask you to do new things that are outside of your normal expertise because they have faith that you’ll do a great job no matter what the project.
I challenge you to take a good, hard look at your client list, and while you are at it, your personal relationships. Are you the vendor of choice, or are you just an old habit?
Steve Johnson, president and CEO of Copresco in Carol Stream, Ill., is an executive with 40 years of experience in the graphic arts. He founded Copresco, a pioneer in digital printing technology and on-demand printing, in 1987. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.copresco.com