I have always believed that to be a person of strong character, you have to do the right thing when nobody is looking. That is what this article is about, character. It is easy to do the right thing when all eyes are on you or to do the right thing knowing you will be praised for the act. But what about when no one is looking, or if the act will happen without you getting any acknowledgment?
I have always hired based on character, attitude, and aptitude rather than focusing on skills or experience. Skills can be learned, and experience means nothing if the experience someone has gained was in doing things wrong. Yesterday this hiring process resulted in an unexpected return. To tell the story, I have to go back several months to a service call performed by one of my team members.
Tony had a service call for a store we had under contract that was located in a large strip mall. When he completed his job, he was backing out to return to the shop and ended up backing into a light pole. This accident happened despite all the time and effort we put into training our team members in defensive driving and being aware of their surroundings. Now when he hit the pole, it didn’t knock the pole down, but it did cause a pretty significant dent in the side of the pole which damaged the structural integrity.
Our contract was with a company that occupied one of the stores located in the strip mall, not the strip mall. Since Tony parked towards the back of the parking lot, it would have been very easy for him to drive off and not tell anyone what had happened. However Tony was a person of strong character. So he immediately called his manager, Patrick and told him what happened. This had to be a hard decision for Tony since he knew that calling in with an accident was not going to be a fun conversation, and would also require Tony to complete our company’s safe driving training all over again.
Once Patrick assessed that Tony was ok and no one was hurt, Patrick told Tony to see if there was a management office at the strip mall so we could report to them what happened. After Tony told Patrick he could not find any management office, Patrick told Tony to fill out an incident report, and wait for Patrick to see if he could reach someone at the strip mall’s management company.
Patrick was finally able to get in contact with Will, the property manager for the strip mall. Patrick explained what had transpired, and requested that Will allow us to fix the pole. Will asked Patrick to send over a copy of our insurance and licensing to verify we were legally allowed to work on the lighting pole, but told Patrick that as long as we are a bona fide company, he would have no issue with allowing us to perform the repairs. Patrick let Tony know and had Tony disconnect power from the pole, take the pole down for safety, quarantine off the area, and then pack up and head back to the shop.
Patrick called around to find the same exact pole to match the one that was damaged. Once he found the proper pole, he was informed there was a four week lead time before we could receive the pole. Patrick called Will, the strip mall manager, and informed him of the lead time, but assured him that we would verify the safety of the work area and as soon as the pole comes in we would be back out the next day and make the repairs. Will told Patrick that would be fine, but asked Patrick if he could change out the heads to LEDs since we were there anyway. He wanted his boss to see the difference between the existing HID lighting and the LEDs light spectrum. Will further stated we could send him a bill for the LED heads. Patrick told Will he would be happy to replace the heads with LEDs and that we would cover the cost difference to make up for all the trouble we caused. Will was ecstatic and thanked Patrick profusely.
Four weeks later the pole came in, and Patrick notified Will and scheduled a crew to replace the pole. When Patrick called Will to let him know that the new pole was installed and working, Will thanked him and said he would be in touch.
About a week later, Will called Patrick back and told him he was able to show his boss the LED lights, and his boss was sold on retrofitting out the entire parking lot with LED fixtures to replace the older HID fixtures. Will asked Patrick to get him a price and he would send it up to his boss for approval. Later that day Patrick sent the price, and by the following day, the purchase order was cut.
Patrick called Will after receiving the purchase order to thank him for the business and to set up a schedule for when we could plan the work. Will let Patrick know that the reason we got the work was because of the way we handled things with the damaged pole. Will immediately recognized the character it took for us to notify him about the accident. But that wasn’t all, he went on to tell Patrick that the way we did the work and how safe we were with quarantining the area also impressed his boss. Finally, he stated that our level of communication and the fact that we made his job so easy, he literally didn’t have to do anything and the pole was fixed and in better condition than before, is the reason we have earned their business. Will closed the phone call with Patrick by saying that they manage 18 other properties in the area and they will exclusively be using us moving forward.
In this story, the example of true character was demonstrated several times. Not just by Tony, but by Patrick as well. It would have been easy for either Tony or Patrick just to disappear and not say anything about what happened. Chances are no one would have been caught. It also would have been easy for Patrick to charge the customer for the LED fixtures, and maybe even cover the labor in the markup. However, Patrick and Tony chose to do the right thing when no one was looking. In the end, they were rewarded for their character, but that wasn’t the reason they did what they did. Tony and Patrick were people of character; they couldn’t help it! We spend a lot of money on training; we constantly teach our team about providing the Ultimate Customer Experience and instructing the industry’s best practices. But in the end, you can’t teach character, you either have it, or you don’t. Luckily for me, I am surrounded by people of strong character, and that is the foundation for providing the Ultimate Customer Experience, even when nobody is looking!