Going the extra mile

I read a article the other day and within that article was the following quote by Roger Staubach: “There are not Traffic Jams on the Extra Mile.”

The quote was in an article on improving customer service. That quote really stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking. I mean everyone in every business I have ever known says they go the extra mile but do they really? I am certain I have never heard this phrase used: “We fall short of doing what you expect of us.” First, it is not a very catchy phrase, but more importantly who would want to be a customer of that business?

That got me thinking. I believe many people say they go the extra mile — but saying and going a mile beyond what people expect is two different things. So what stops us from going the extra mile? Well, I think it starts with two phrases: “I can’t" or "I won’t.”

I have found that there is some confusion with the words "can’t" and "won’t". People often say they can’t do something, when what they really mean is that they won’t. Here’s the thing: When a service provider tells a customer — and themselves — that they can’t do something extra, they end the possibility of it happening. Can’t is a dead end. It can’t be done. That’s it.

Opportunity, not inconvenience

Here is an everyday example of what I am talking about. Let’s say a restaurant that will remain unnamed stops serving breakfast at 10:30 am and you arrive at 10:33 am. You want to order a McSomething or another only to be told they can’t serve you! What they really mean is that they won’t serve you. They could serve you, however, they’ve chosen not to serve you — and in doing so to not go the extra mile.

By pointing out to you they stop serving breakfast at 10:30 am the service provider has an excuse not to try. So you leave disappointed or eat some sort of burger for breakfast at 10:33 am.

Of course, the best service providers would use that same situation as an opportunity to go a mile beyond what you expected of them. They’d explain that it’s a few minutes after they stop serving breakfast, but they will make an exception for you. In doing so, they would have delivered a great customer experience story that you likely would have shared with your friends.

So what is the lesson here? Before you tell a client or prospective client that you can’t do what they want, ask yourself if what you really mean is that you won’t do what they want. Now, if they are being totally unreasonable or selfishly trying to get you to work for free, etc., you shouldn’t allow them to abuse your good nature. However, if what you are being asked is something you can do and you believe they are sincere, you have a decision to make.

You can do what they expect by refusing to be flexible. Alternatively, you can be one of the rare few who actually do go the extra mile. You can build stronger, deeper bonds with your clients. Plus… you can give your marketplace a story about your business, worth sharing.

True example

Now you are probably thinking, “Dion, you must go the extra mile all the time and skip down that road whistling while doing so, right?’ Well, I would be lying if I said I did. The following is a true story for all with its good and bad. I think it will help to reiterate my point.

Our showroom is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays. Now imagine it is a beautiful day with very few clouds in the sky. I even believe you could hear birds singing that day. We had been busy with customers all day, as Saturdays are one of our higher traffic days. At 4:15 one of the showroom associates and I were able to get the last customer on their way and lock the doors. We had about 45 to 60 minutes of work to catch up on and finish before we could finally leave for the day and start to enjoy our weekend.

So 5:15pm arrives and we are both just finishing and ready to go when a car pulls up out front. A couple gets out of their car and they walk toward the doors. It is well past closing time when they notice our hours. Before either of us had a chance to react another car pulls up and it is one of the managers from the wholesale side of our company.

Let me back up a bit and be deadly honest. My thought when they pulled up was “Are you kidding me?” How do you not call for business hours before you stop? It was not like it was 4:15 or even 5:00 pm — it was well past closing time. Anyway, that is what was going through my head and I may or may not have verbalized that to my co-worker. Now back to the story.

So the manager gets out of his car and notices the people looking in. He instinctively invites the customer to come in and look around. I had plans with my family and so did the other person I worked with that day. Well, to shorten this a little we ended up going the extra mile and waited on the customer. They ended up placing an order that day. The jury is still out if they appreciate the effort, but I like to think they did.

Looking back on the situation, I realized I was in the wrong for being upset when they pulled up and the other manager was in the right to have let them in. Typically I have no issue staying late for a customer who needs me. In going the extra mile you can’t focus on the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

Although WIIFM might be common thinking, it’s the kiss of death when it comes to success and going the extra mile. If you want to excel, stop focusing on what’s in it for you. Don’t worry about whether it’s fair to give more when you’re not being compensated or recognized for it. Don’t adopt the “it’s not my job” mentality. This type of attitude shows that you’re focused on yourself, but you’ll see bigger results more quickly if you make other people the focus of your attention.

Going the extra mile shows that you pay attention to detail, that you consider all the small things that really make a business successful, that you care about your image, and that you belong with all the other people who work hard to achieve. You will attract new business and new opportunities.

Here are four simple questions that can help you evaluate how well you’re putting this principle into play in your life:

• What do most people expect? To know how to exceed expectations, you first have to know what expectations are. What level of service do customers expect? What do your vendors want? How about your employees or master mind partners? Look at every important relationship you have, and discover what the minimum expectations are.

• Take a candid look at your performance. Do you exceed expectations? Do you surprise people with more than they were expecting from you? Do you look for ways that you could be of more service, or for projects that you could help out on? Or are you skating by, meeting expectations and providing average value?

• How are you willing to go the extra mile? What kind of extra service are you willing to provide in order to stand out from the rest? If you aren’t 100% willing to deliver service above and beyond expectations, why not?

• What can you do to exceed expectations? What added service would your customers love, but don’t expect? How could you better serve your boss and company? How could you provide more value to your customers?

Success demands hard work

Listen to any success story and you will hear of someone who worked exceptionally hard to get what they wanted. You’ll hear how they put in the extra time, did what wasn’t part of their job description, and over-delivered on what was asked of them. You’ll hear how they stuck at it until they broke through, and usually you’ll hear how it only took them a couple of years to do it.

What have you been doing for the past couple of years? The same old thing? How quickly have you advanced? How quickly has time gone by? Think of what you could accomplish if you made it a habit to exceed everyone’s expectations. Image what doors could be open to you if you decided to be of better service and value.

Be willing to treat everyone like you’d treat your dearest friend. Don’t skimp on service. Don’t be mediocre or run of the mill. You need to show people what you are capable of. Show them that you care about your image and reputation. When it comes to success, the people who are willing to go the extra mile get there that much faster!

Because evidently there are no traffic jams.

Dion Wilson, Manager of Waterhouse Bath & Kitchen Studio and interior designer, has worked in the K&B industry for the last two decades. Under his direction, Waterhouse has garnered national attention. He is considered one of the industry’s leading social media experts. Wilson can be reached at 419-874-3519, manager@waterhousebks.com; or www.waterhousebks.com. Find him on Facebook www.facebook.com/Waterhousebks or on Twitter @dion1701.

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