WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

February 12, 2013

Truthful WordFood for Customers

Last year was an exciting time, as I was preparing to re-enter the world of scuba diving after a long hiatus away. In 2002 I had gone to Africa for an adventure dive and during an interview with a professional diver, had bought a Poseidon regulator from him at a deep discount. This regulator would normally retail at around $700 and they normally last about 25 years or more. Poseidon is one of the world’s best manufacturers with an excellent reputation. Mine had been in the basement for 10 years, so I took it to the dive shop closest to me.

They tested it and it had a free flowing air problem. The manager told me that I’d have to replace it, that there were no Poseidon dealers in this country and that no one repaired them. I was looking at a major investment, and I didn’t have the cash to do it just then. I continued with my pool skills with their instructor and planned to rent the gear in country.

However, I mentioned this to the instructor. He said, without directly contradicting the manager, that I might check into it more thoroughly. I went to Poseidon.com and immediately saw that Denver Divers not only was a Poseidon dealer but they also handled repairs, just a few miles away. I called them and talked to their repair guy. Very quickly we discerned that my problem was a simple fix, well under $200, and I took my reg to them that same day.

The other thing about the original dive shop manager was that he constantly harangued me about money. Pool time with the instructor cost, and so did solo pool time. I paid in advance or right on time. As a small business owner myself, I’m sensitive to issues of cash flow. This habit of coming after me for $25 got incredibly annoying- and combined with the dishonesty about the Poseidon dealership and repair availability made the shop’s accessibility to my house far less important than his money grubbing.

What became perfectly clear after my dealings with Denver Divers was that this was a family owned shop that cared about the relationship first. That speaks to safety and the comfort of knowing you’re going to be cared about. These dive shop owners know that many of us can buy gear on line for less. They have to find other ways to engage us, earn our trust, and in the process, we will want to reward them by buying from them and going on trips with them. The other dive shop manager, by lying outright about the regulator, in a world where a couple of clicks online will instantly prove him wrong, lost a customer and also, I tell others about it, too. These owners all know each other, so ignorance is no excuse. It’s a small community.

I’m old school in that I will first take someone’s word for granted. I’m glad I asked my instructor and did the research. A few extra miles’ drive is a small price to pay to work with friends and go on trips where your wallet isn’t the main point of interest.

In a tough economy, it is ever more important to put people first. To feed people WordFood that makes them feel valued and important. It’s the customer relationship that brings us back. I was reminded of Miracle on 34th Street, where Santa told customers where to find the best deal, and the store earned many repeat customers. Had the original manager helped me find a repair shop, he’d have earned my trust, and my loyalty. Instead, the exchange was toxic, and irretrievable.

Customers have access to too much information for a brick and mortar shop not to treat them with respect. Loyalty is earned, and we will give it back, where a business owner doesn’t grasp. When we go out of our way to serve delicious WordFood, customers will always come back for more.

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