Service businesses can be tough for many reasons. One of the biggest is that when they do their jobs and deliver the promised service, people rarely notice: it’s just expected they’ll do so. But should they fail to deliver all or even part of what’s expected, that’s a whole different story.
I was reminded of these almost “no win” situations this morning, when I opened a letter from my internet provider CenturyLink. I’m not sure that internet providers technically qualify as “service companies,” but from my perspective, CenturyLink is providing a service to me: one that I take for granted when they do. And because I’m able to work from my home largely because of the internet, I get pretty cranky about it when they occasionally don’t provide said service due to a system problem or a lightning strike, etc. (we get a lot a lightning up here in the mountains of New Mexico).
No, before you start writing comments, I should also disclose that I do have two backups for when CenturyLink lets me down: the “hotspot” on my cell phone (which is expensive to use), and a cellular modem that is much cheaper. Still, neither is a fast as my T2 landline, which doesn’t help my attitude toward CenturyLink when I have to use one of those backups.
I told you all that so that you can understand my state of mind as I was going through this morning’s mail and discovered a letter from CenturyLink. The envelope was too thin to be my monthly bill, so my first thought was to wonder whether I neglected to pay my bill last month: But I was pretty sure that I did, right? My second thought was that they were raising their rates.
In any event, there didn’t seem to be much upside, so I opened the letter with some trepidation. Here’s what it said: “Thank you for choosing CenturyLink for your high-speed internet service. We understand that most households have ever-increasing needs for more internet speed on their home networks. Because we value you as our customer and appreciate your business, we have automatically increased your internet speed from 12 Mbps to 20 Mbps at no additional charge.”
Talk about surprised! You could have knocked me over with a power cord. But I won’t forget it: and chances are, the next time my internet goes does, I won’t get as upset about it. More important to CenturyLink, I’ll most certainly tell other people about it.
But that’s not why I’m telling you about it. I mention it here because the advisory business is, of course, a service business. And it has some advantages over other service businesses, such as portfolio growth, which is usually not taken for granted by clients—but it certainly can be. Moreover, and sadly, portfolios don’t always go up…
Which is why I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind you that many successful advisory firms strengthen their client relationships by surprising their clients every now and then, with kind gestures that are above and beyond ordinary client services.