I received a pleasant surprise recently that led to a very unique opportunity. I was asked to speak at a local athletic awards banquet which is always a special treat. After the banquet, I unexpectedly ran into a previous client who I haven’t seen for almost 20 years. At that time I was working as a consultant for a local community college and was assigned to a national client for a two-month project that required travel from coast to coast. Much of my time was spent with this particular gentleman.
Long story short, our after-banquet chat led to an informal offer I simply couldn’t afford to pass up. I was invited to spend a half-day with my old friend as he wanted me to witness something he thought I’d enjoy. I accepted his offer, and we agreed on a mutually convenient date.
When I worked with him years ago, he was a prominent supervisor with his company. Today, after several promotions, he’s a vice president of what is now an international organization. It didn’t take long for me to understand why he’s been so successful.
We met for breakfast and then I joined him for a half-day of visiting clients. Yep, it was that simple. This is something he has placed on his calendar every month for years. He said he wished he could do it even more often but his travel schedule currently prohibits any more than a day a month.
He wanted me to see what has resulted from a book we both read and enjoyed very much decades earlier. It was a Tom Peters’ classic, In Search of Excellence, in which he encouraged MBWA (Management By Wandering Around). My friend applied this strategy within his organization and was so pleased with the results that he decided to extend his execution to his client base. That’s what he wanted me to see.
Once a month, he unexpectedly drops in on a number of his clients to do nothing more than say “Hi,” ask how things are going, and inquire as to what he can do to make his client’s life a little easier. His questions and comments are very informal and conversational. His visit is short and pleasant. He claims to walk away from every client feeling he has learned, through casual feedback, something new about the client, his product and service, and/or their relationship.
During our half-day adventure, we chatted with five clients, and I couldn’t help but recognize the fact that each of the five seemed pleasantly surprised to see him. One even mentioned the fact that my friend was the first vendor that had ever taken the time to stop by, much less inquire as to how they might be helpful.
After each visit, he jotted down several notes on a legal pad … all of which I was certain would be put to good use with disciplined follow-up. After lunch I thanked him for the experience and told him how much I appreciated the opportunity to see someone actually applying, with enthusiasm and obvious success, something he had learned. He informed me that he thought I might find it interesting because we shared a respect of both the author and the concept.
He said he makes these visits religiously when he’s in town as well as while on the road throughout the country. He swears his ROI (Return On Investment) is incalculable and encourages everyone to make such activity a critical part of their schedule.
Situations such as this one are indeed rewarding and even more so when totally serendipitous. Why not “Shock a Customer” by calling or stopping by for a visit? You may be pleasantly surprised as well.