On Record: Tell it like it is

Exhibit One: I won’t name the city or even the state, but I got an interesting off-the-schedule tour the other day.

The scene was a pickup truck, where I was riding shotgun after visiting a contractor’s jobsite. “Off the record,” I asked the rental manager for this construction company, “how would you rate your rental service providers?” After he gave me his honest opinion about the various companies in his market, he got an idea. “Let me show you something,” he told me, turning the truck. “It’s not very far out of the way.”

And so that’s how we ended up taking a tour of what I have to admit was the impressive lobby of one local rental provider.

“Now I don’t want to get down on them too hard,” this gentleman said after we got back in his truck, “because they’ve been good to us. But you see something like that and you have to ask yourself, ‘is this why they can’t give us better rates?’ It makes you wonder.”
Exhibit Two: There it was, in the midst of my daily dose of emails, a message from the local Toyota dealer where I had recently purchased my Rav 4. Their records indicated it was time for my car’s regularly scheduled 5,000-mile maintenance. Would I like to use the link in the email to schedule my service appointment, and oh by the way, receive some money-saving coupons?

Boy, would I. The next page let me pick the service options available to me at that time. I could select anything from a $24.95 oil-and-filter replacement up to installing running boards for just under $200. The next page prompted me to select the appointment date and time, and finally receive a confirmation of all my selections.

Before this, I’ve received service reminder post cards in the mail. These cards usually sit on my kitchen counter for a few days, after which I may transfer them to my purse so I can be reminded to make the necessary phone call during work hours. Unfortunately, sometimes the deed just doesn’t get done and my car ends up getting a long overdue date with the service technician.

My prompt response to the dealer’s polite email inquiry should set all the bells ringing in their marketing department: This woman likes to schedule service via email. I’ve made my preferences clear, if anyone’s paying attention. (Just the fact they offer this service leads me to suspect that someone there is.)

Which makes me wonder about my friend in example one. Is he voicing his concerns to his sales person about whether he’s getting the best rates? Is he letting him or her know he even has these concerns?

Although I hear a lot of similarities in my conversations with contractors when I ask what’s important to you, each of you tend to have a different spin on the degree of importance of each item. For example, while some of you, like my personal example above, may value the convenience of communicating by email, others value face-to-face contact.

Do yourself a favor and let your vendors know what you value. Chances are in today’s competitive environment, they’ll do backflips to make sure they meet your expectations.