Auto Repaired

Two weeks ago I was reviewing our checking account balance online when I noticed two charges for our monthly car lease. Kathy tried to call about it throughout the day and continually received a busy signal. The next morning an email arrived explaining they were testing a new payment processing system when “a number of Honda Financial Services customer accounts were mistakenly debited.”

They immediately refunded the charges – and a few days later a letter arrived from a Senior VP that included:

“I am writing… to apologize for our mistake… I deeply regret the inconvenience and potential hardship this has created for you… This is not acceptable and we understand that this does not meet your expectations… We are doing everything in our power to make it right… You are our number one priority.”

They also offered to reimburse any subsequent costs incurred because of their error.

Things happen in every business. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Somebody messed up and somebody has to clean up. Eventually it will be your turn. Learn from this excellent recovery. Many times, if you handle the back-end right, customers will forgive you.

We’ve purchased five Hondas over the years… and will continue to be loyal to the brand.


Lessons Learned – #3

We’re to the top 3 most important lessons I learned this year:

Environmental Marketing – Some creative types are encouraging clients to start advertising at people’s feet – and not just the colorful printed ones you see in grocery stores. With ‘clean graffiti,’ power washing sidewalks around a stencil removes some dirt and leaves behind an ad. Still too early to know if this approach drives major sales; however, it definitely would freshen up the front of your building.


Lessons Learned – #9

The #9 best lesson I learned this year…

Backhanded Bonus – A few weeks ago, we received a postcard from DirecTV. Thinking it was an offer for new subscribers – and since we’ve been a customer for a decade – I skimmed past. Kathy picked it up and realized the satellite provider actually was gifting us NFL Sunday Ticket through the end of the regular season. That’s a nice gesture… until you read the fine print. Seems if we ‘fail to cancel’ before the first game of 2016, our credit card will be charged the full price for next season. Talk about having strings attached.


Playing Games

Since energy is deregulated in Texas, residents select their providers. It takes time, effort and skill to ensure you’re not getting into a plan that ultimately hurts you in the long run. Ours always comes up in August… and every year I have to figure out who has the best deal at that moment. In years when prices rise, we come out ahead. In years when prices fall – like, oh, say, the past 12 months – it hasn’t worked out so well. There are several tricks to playing this game.

You have to be sure to: 1) Do the research; 2) Leave your current provider – because, like satellite TV, cable and mobile phones – the best deals are ‘for new customers only’; 3) Read the fine print; and, 4) Switch on the day after your existing contract is up, so you don’t get hit with a cancellation fee after 364 days of loyalty.

Companies offer lowest rate discounts when you utilize the sweet spot of 1000-2000 kWh. Miss it and you pay a penalty that greatly increases your charges. It’s a marketing approach providers say prevents them from incurring out-of-line administrative expenses for underutilization. Of course, another way to look at it is you are penalized for conserving energy. That seems rather inconsistent with the world’s needs these days.

Nevertheless, I figured out how to beat the system. We’ll sign a new three-month agreement (with another provider), because our usage will be above 1000 through November. Then we’ll switch for six months… during which we’ll be under that magic kWh number. And then do it all again in May to get back on the other side of the usage total.

If I were in charge, this would be handled differently. Our best customers would receive a premium for staying – and no one would be penalized for being energy conscious. Alas, I’m not.


Rudolph’s Wisdom

11 Things You Can Learn from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
(Originally published December, 2004)

1. Everyone Makes A Difference – Despite not letting him play in their games, the other reindeer came to understand Rudolph’s importance. Look for the talents in each of your employees.

2. Have Courage And Confidence – At first Rudolph ran from his problems, then he came back to face them. When things are tough, keep working hard and believing in yourself.

3. Don’t Always Listen To Experts – Hermey went against the wishes of the elves and became a dentist. Be receptive to others’ advice… and remember, in the end you know what’s best.

4. Know Who You Are – Donner covered up Rudolph’s nose, yet eventually everyone found out. Customers will discover if you’re not really who you say you are, so train your employees well.

5. Keep Learning – Yukon Cornelius knew Bumbles bounce. Seek new information often about your business, your industry, your competition and your customers.

6. Tell Your Story – Burl Ives’ narration in Rudolph ties it all together. Let customers and prospects know the benefits they receive to distinguish your business from competitors.

7. Be Innovative – Yukon had Hermey oink like a pig to distract the Abominable Snowman. Look for opportunities to improve your operations by doing things differently than you always have.

8. Be Creative – The elves drop toys by umbrellas, which is much faster than Santa going down chimneys. Find ways to make your employees more productive… and make you more profitable.

9. Recognize The Obvious – Santa was ready to cancel Christmas, then realized Rudolph’s nose was the answer. Next time you have a problem, see if the answer is right under your nose.

10. Recycling Is Good – Santa found homes for everyone on the Island of Misfit Toys. Review your marketing and training materials… and determine which ones need to find a new home in the recycling bin.

11. Capitalize On Milestones – This milestone anniversary of Rudolph proves there is opportunity in longevity. Celebrate and publicize your next significant anniversary all year long.