I’m sitting in my office–it’s 97 degrees in the office, I’m fuming, it’s been one of those weeks. I was traveling all week, thinking I was fortunate enough to miss the very hot weather we are having in Southern California (OK, some of you may think I am whining).
On Friday, I called my wife, both air conditioning systems in the house had failed — we had just replaced them last October with completely new systems. I told her to call the air conditioner company to get out to the house. That evening, I called her again, “had they fixed the problem?” “No–they haven’t shown up yet. They said they would be here by 1:00, it’s now 4:30,” she said. I told her, I’d call the owner of the company to see what was up.
I called him, didn’t get him, but talked to the office manager. She apologized, saying that they were running behind schedule, but someone would be there Friday. Saturday morning, before jumping on the plane, I called my wife. “Are things back to normal?” “They haven’t shown up yet……” She had that tone in her voice, I thought I was about to get a performance review. I put in a hasty call to the company–got their voicemail and left a polite but urgent voice message. When I landed, guess what —-yes, you know the drill—they still hadn’t shown up. This time, I got the owner on the line. He said that he would personally come by to look at and fix the systems. I told him that I would re-arrange my schedule so that I could be home all afternoon for him.
Well, that was yesterday, today’s Sunday, no messages, no air conditioning, nothing. I spent much of my time preparing letters to the Better Business Bureau and other organizations—I guess the heat is getting to me. Now tomorrow, I have to re-scheduled my business meetings so I can get this guy to meet his commitments (by the way–it’s all warranty work, he doesn’t appear to want to honor that.).
I wish this was an isolated case. But we encounter it every day–in both big and little ways. It’s the sales person that committed to call you at a certain time, then 30 minutes later–when you are in a meeting, he calls offering some excuse but expecting to take your time. It’s the team-mate who has committed a certain set of deliverables on a certain schedule, but fails to meet the commitment–not just late, but no deliverables. It’s the person that’s constantly 10 minutes late to a meeting, keeping everyone else waiting…. I’ll stop there, I could get carried away.
This afternoon, as I’ve been reflecting, I’ve realized how common place it is for us not to meet our commitments. Sure we tend to make the “big one’s” — at least when they serve our self interests. But, it’s unusual for us to meet the little commitments. I happen to be a little obsessive about phone calls and meetings. It always strikes me as strange when at least 90% of the people I’m calling exclaim, “Wow–right on the dot!” They think it’s unusual, to me it’s meeting my commitment.
I few years ago, I was talking to a friend. He’d built a very good contracting business in our community. I was asking him his secret, he replied, “I wish it was my ‘craftsmanship,’ but really it’s about meeting commitments. I show up on time, I do the work they contracted for, I clean up afterwards—just the basics. That’s really 80% of what’s made me successful and why they hire me over other very capable contractors.”
Just the basics—-showing up on time—-meeting your commitments—–80% of customer satisfaction and differentiation. It’s a shame it’s not the norm–why do we settle for it?
I’m tempted to end this post with something to the effect of “sweating the details….” Sorry, the heat is getting to me.