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    The Weakest Link

    Nov. 1, 2002
    No, Im not talking about that strangely compelling television show originally from Britain. Im talking about all the points of contact between customers

    No, I’m not talking about that strangely compelling television show originally from Britain. I’m talking about all the points of contact between customers and your company. Customers are touched by many people from within your company — whether it’s the receptionist who answers the phone, the technician who knocks on their doors, or the salesman who pays them a visit. Each “touch” is a link in a chain of perception that can produce a moment of truth. That moment can be golden in nature or it can be disastrous.

    Because of this, your company is only as strong as its weakest link.

    Case in point — Kenneth Goode, whose well-respected Houston-based contracting company was victimized by a national news sting because of one bad technician. That technician was his weakest link and got his company splashed onto television screens across America.

    Now I’m not saying such notoriety is waiting in the wings for every contracting firm. But every day your company passes or fails many moments of truth.

    Disastrous Moments of Truth

    I have a cousin who had an air conditioning problem this past summer. He called a local contractor, who dispatched a service technician, who found a blown blower motor, replaced it, and sold my cousin a service agreement.

    If that was all that happened, then this company’s moment of truth would have been golden. End of story.

    But that’s not what happened.

    You see, the technican showed up late for the appointment, barely said a word to my cousin (who’d taken time off from his job to be there), diagnosed the bad blower motor, and performed the simple repair.

    He didn’t notice that the furnace was more than 18 years old and that it was located in a basement undergoing reconstructive surgery (the furnace would be enclosed in a tight closet). He also didn’t notice that the condensing unit was rusty and more than 15 years old.

    Two weeks later there was an accident on the construction site, and the outdoor condensing unit was nearly knocked over. My cousin called the contractor and the same technician was dispatched. He disconnected the condensing unit, drained the refrigerant, and moved the condenser out of the way.

    Later, the same technican returned to reconnect it, but managed to melt some of the siding on the house when he used a torch to braze the connections. Now that was a moment of truth.

    Less than a week later, the air conditioning broke down again. The same technican came out to the house and explained that the system had a leak. Now get this: he added refrigerant and told my cousin he’d be back in the spring.

    Does it surprise you that my cousin called a different contractor?

    Golden Moments of Truth

    The new contractor arrived and listened to my cousin’s problem. He performed a whole-house survey. He asked many questions and noticed that the furnace and condenser were at the end of their lifecycles. He found numerous leaks in the refrigerant lines and evaporator coil. He noted that the furnace was located in a closed space that starved it for air. He recommended my cousin replace the furnace and air conditioning system, because in the long run, it was the most economical thing to do.

    And you know what? My cousin bought the new system.

    Did the first contractor lose an opportunity here? Does this contractor even know why? Do you suppose my cousin will talk positively about his experience with the first contractor?

    I guess not. After all, he told me about it.

    The points of contact should always result in a golden moment of truth. Don’t be a victim of your weakest link.

    Mike Weil is the executive editor. If you have any comments or questions about this article, or any suggestions for future topics, he can be reached at [email protected].