I better apologize in advance… This “Time To Think” is going to go a bit long. My guess is that this is and will always be my longest “TTT” ever.
Yesterday really triggered me—probably because nothing frustrates me more than bad business practices… and nothing gives me more joy than experiencing businesses that get it right.
I also take a lot of pride in ChiroTrust and how we do business.
I know first-hand how much work it takes to add and maintain value to the lives of customers (my members, your patients).
I realize how hard it is to attract good customers, what it really takes to keep them, and how easy it is to lose them.
In business and in life, context is everything.
You and me are at the mercy of context.
My day yesterday is a perfect example.
But it really began with a tire store in Danville we’ll call “TIRE SHOP #1”…
Two years ago, I had some work done on my Sprinter Van and as a result, “TIRE SHOP #1” accidentally damaged one of the Alcoa Aluminum Wheels.
It was a very forgivable experience. Accidents happen.
But what was not forgivable is how they failed to quickly resolve the problem. I had to take it up with Alcoa and “TIRE SHOP #1” corporate, something I hated but had to do. Typically, when I factor in my time, it’s cheaper to take the loss, write the check, or forget about things all together.
As a result of that experience, I decided not to do business with “TIRE SHOP #1” any longer.
Fast forward a year….
Again, I needed some work for the Sprinter and made an appointment with “TIRE SHOP #2”, the only other downtown Danville tire place. It happens to be owned by a guy who left “TIRE SHOP #1” months before my episode there.
He and I agreed that “TIRE SHOP #1” Danville isn’t what it used to be.
So I made an appointment for the following day at 8 am.
When I showed up, the reception area was busy. Actually the entire place was already roll’n. Remember, I scheduled an appointment a day prior.
We had an agreement. I showed up. I honored my word.
Well, maybe because the owner and I had a pleasant conversation the day before, he felt comfortable asking (telling) me to come in the next day. Maybe it was because he thought he already had me as a customer. That way, he could write up and service the new walk-ins that also entered at 8 am.
I smiled and walked out never to return.
We had an agreement.
(And likely because I already had a bad taste in my mouth with TIRE SHOP #1—context is everything.)
Another year later (yesterday)…
I drove my rig to a business in Fairfield, California to have a cigarette lighter-type receptacle wired to my “house batteries” and installed in the inside back of my rig. That way, I can charge my portable “Kodiak” lithium ion batter with my solar panels while I drive. (RV-VanLife talk)
I arrived at 8:45 and could tell that Chris, the guy that has taken great care of me in the past, was stressed. I think whomever initially scheduled me shouldn’t have told me that I could wait while they do the one-hour job.
He also stated that he need more time because he hadn’t had his coffee yet.
His problem was not my problem. I drove close to an hour for my morning appointment and didn’t like how I was treated.
So I calmly left and said to myself, “It’s a small custom job. I don’t need it. I want it. But not this bad. Since I’m close to Napa, I’ll go there and have a nice time.”
I also emailed Chris and explained why I left. He responded but since he didn’t accept responsibility, I didn’t accept his request for me to drive back. His email made no sense. I made the appointment with Justine, they knew the work and had the parts, and I was told that it would take an hour to install. (If only he had said, “Ben, sorry man, we’ll get to it right away. We will honor your appointment and get the work done while you wait. It’s not your fault, it was mine. I’m sorry man!”)
Instead, I drove 20 minutes to Napa and decided to make yesterday my monthly get-away day where I relax, think, and work alone and camp in my Sprinter Van on the mountain at “Napa Wilderness Park”. It’s a cool place.
As I drove downtown, I heard and smelled something odd. I pulled over into a shopping center parking lot and noticed that my rear tire (inner rear tire, it’s a “dually”) was flat.
I got on my phone to map out where the tire shops are and to my surprise, there was a Les Schwab Tire Center literally 100-200 feet away in the same shopping center.
When I entered the huge reception area and show room, I noticed that nobody was there. Just me.
I waited and waited. Of course, due to my recent experiences, I was starting to get a little frustrated. Just then, a young kid (about 20 to 25 years old) got behind the counter.
I thought to myself, “This kid is young. Do I really want him advising me on what’s best for my close to 10,000 pound extended Sprinter Van?”
He took a look at my flat, said he could fix it and asked for my keys.
I hesitated, gave him the keys, and walked around the back as I watched him maneuver my rig through the parking lot and into one of the work bays.
I told him that I’d like to speak to whomever will be working on the van.
Of course, it was the youngest looking person on the clock. No joke, this guy looked like he weighed 135 pounds, tops. Good looking kid. Looks more suited for the men’s department at Nordstrom’s. (He’s standing to my left in the pic below.)
I asked him questions about where he planned on jacking up the rig and requested that he’d be easy on the rim. (All while feverishly posting questions in the online Sprinter Van form about jacking up Sprinter Vans without damaging them.)
In my head, I also said to myself…
“Maybe I should have had the rig towed to Mercedes Benz Commercial Dealership for the repair.”
“I should take pictures and/or video just incase they mess things up.”
“I should have had gotten an estimate first. I’m at their mercy. They got me.”
The kid working on my rig asked for advice and help from his co-workers.Roughly 45 minutes later, they lowered my rig and had done a good job.
As a team, they fixed Harvey (that’s what I call my Sprinter Van).
Then Sean, who seemed to be the most seasoned and looked the oldest (maybe 25), backed Harvey out of the work bay, handed me the keys, smiled at me warmly and said…
“There is no charge… We just hope that if you ever need tires, you’ll think of us.”
I was blown away.
I was equally blown away how that gesture made me feel.
That is why I INSISTED that I pay for the work.
I’m not one of those guys who looks for or even prefer “free”. I always strive to stay ahead of fair exchange. I actually prefer to give more than I get out of people and out of life.
I walked into their office, expressed my gratitude, and desired to pay.
They declined and insisted that there was no charge.
So to thank them, I went next door, bought some beverages and snacks and return with my thank-you gift.
I also asked to speak to all of them at once…
To explain who I am and what I do…
To share why what they did is so important…
To thank each and every one of them…
I’m embarrassed to say that I even got a little emotional—no tears but definitely affected.
I’m in the business of trying to get Chiropractors to understand that “ads” don’t build practices. It’s about product, positioning, relevance, reputation, experience, and relationship building and maintenance. Everything ChiroTrust does to and for each member.
Context: MY past experiences, my morning debacle, the stories I was telling myself while having my rig repaired by guys who looked like they still belonged in high school… This ALL contrasted in a big way with how they handled my rig and those final words: no charge.
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THIS GESTURE AND HOW IT WILL IMPACT LES SCHWAB TIRE CENTER OF NAPA, CALIFORNIA AND QUITE POSSIBLY ALL THEIR CENTERS NATIONWIDE…
#1. – I am spending an hour of my time writing this.
#2. – I plan on including this email in my Yelp review for everyone in Napa searching for a tire place to see… maybe for years to come.
#3. – I will let Les Schwab corporate/National office know about my experience and offer to fly to and speak at their national convention (if they have one) on my dime.
And they will be my new source of tires and tire-related services for my four vehicles.
…Unless they too screw up down the road. Doubtful but possible.
Does this mean that you need to give away free services?
No and especially not as an offer to attract customers. That has already devalued Chiropractic and most D.C.s and increases consumer skepticism—something ChiroTrust is doing a great job reversing.
SO WHAT’S THE TAKE-AWAY?
- Every patient comes with context. Experiences, stories, perspectives, fears, desires, expectations, etc..
- No matter who or how many patients already love you, you can be one bad experience from losing them forever.
- You never know the impact you can make on just one person and the impact that one person can make on your business. One person can literally make you or break you.
So that’s it.
Overall, it was a great day yesterday.
I worked out at a gym that I never knew existed, ate some great food, and got a fantastic spot on a hill to call home for the night.
Leaving Napa now.
OH WAIT, BEFORE I DRIVE OUT OF HERE…
Feel free to cut and paste this email into your Facebook feed, emails, or share in any way you see fit. You may also use the photos. All I ask is that you reference Chiro-Trust.org somehow.
This profession needs to get this, don’t you think?
Heck, even if your friends and patients hear this story, it will certainly position you as someone who really cares and “gets it”.