By Deborah Gantos, Editor-In-Chief of Surplus Today

The theme for this month’s editorial is: The Nasty Maintenance Man, or using honey instead of vinegar when interacting with people. Many of you own businesses that deal with the public and many hours are spent daily providing customer service. My question to you is: How well do you provide good, helpful service to your customers? How much effort do you expend training your employees and staff in being your public relations experts? I would wager many of you would say it could be improved. The following is a true story that happened at Surplus Today.

We had just moved our business to a new and better location. I am sure you can relate if you’ve ever had to accomplish that event. The new place was originally an old home built circa 1880s. We all joke about the creepy basement which has ancient large stones that support the first floor! The furnace is medieval, hidden in the damp, dark recesses of this place. If some poor soul has to climb down to fix a blown fuse or retrieve some item that is stored there, he or she must use a trapdoor to descend into the dungeon. Well, you get the idea. After we finally moved everything, there were many things that needed fixing. I naively called our landlord to ask him to send people to accomplish these tasks.

Enter the main character of this story: The Nasty Maintenance Man. Igor (not his real name) walks right in without knocking. His hair is long, greasy and uncombed. His chin has several weeks of stubble and his odor is not pleasing. But the worst was yet to come: he speaks. The words are snarled, garbled and belligerent. He sarcastically tells us he cannot fix anything because he has other properties to do first. I use my best, kindest voice to plead our case: No Deal. Igor storms out.

Several weeks later, Igor returned and did some of the work to be done. Again, I smiled at him, thanked him for his good work and told him we looked forward to seeing him soon. Surprise! He came back the next day. I wanted a few extra things done and he brought the supplies and finished the job, which was done exceptionally well. Wow! Once again, I treated him with respect and kindness. My final gesture was to send an email to the landlord praising Igor’s great, quality work. I received a reply thanking ME. Igor personally expressed his gratitude for my happy customer letter. It was the only one he ever got in 14 years of employment.

The moral of this story is to treat everyone, no matter how grumpy they may be, with kindness and respect. I would add friendliness and helpfulness to that list when dealing with customers. In today’s highly competitive world, you cannot afford not to.