July 7, 2020

What My Son-In-Law Said on Saturday

By Paul Bieber

A little background. Our daughter, Jessica, her husband, Bobby, and our granddaughter, Hannah, are staying with us for a week. We have a separate apartment here, so while they are here, we stay 10 feet apart and cannot touch the baby. We were sitting on our lawn and Bobby was telling me about part of his job where he buys computers.

So, what does this have to do with a column about our beloved glass industry?

Everything. He said that he buys from two vendors, but gives 90% of his business to one company. Asking why, he told me that at one company he is welcomed on the phone. The other company answers the phone after five rings and he could just tell that the person answering was not smiling. Company one gives friendly and time-efficient customer service. So does company two, except when he needs something quickly. The answers were always the same: We’ll get to you when we can.

Bobby is not a business person. He works for a non-profit organization related to Columbia University, helping inner city youth get and learn about technology. The interesting thing is that he can immediately tell who cares about helping him in his job. And I bet that if he called a glass company to fix something, he would be able to tell, within seconds of the start of the phone call, who would give the better customer service.

First step, smile when picking up the phone. Train yourself and your team to do this. Customers can clearly understand when someone taking a call sees it as an interruption of their work or it is an opportunity to help a customer. Answer the customer’s questions or get back to them within minutes of the end of the first call.

If at all possible, have a live person do the answering. A customer wants glass installed, usually within three minutes of making the call. (Okay, it really is five minutes.) They may leave a message on your answering machine, but then they will call the next person from the yellow pages or another website. In today’s environment of working from home, have your business phone routed to someone who works from home for you, or to your home number if a spouse is home, or your cell, so that the inquiry is met with a live, smiling voice.

If circumstances require you to have an answering machine, then leave a positive image with the customer. Don’t say, “This is Paul’s Glass, leave a message at the beep.” Try, “Hi, this is Paul’s Glass. We are busy working with another customer and will get back to you as soon as we can. Please leave a detailed message so we can call you back with answers.”

There is a song, written in 1928 by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin, which has been recorded by hundreds of singers. It starts with this lyric, “Smile and the whole world smiles with you.” Keep this in mind during every business transaction, employee conversation and vendor contact.

Just about the only time I don’t smile is when my NY Mets lose a ball game.