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April 10, 2013

Ask the MAGIC QUESTION to gain a competitive advantage

magician2I’m writing this blog post from a coffeeshop about an hour from home while my wife & I are living with my in-laws for a few days.  Our new hardwood floors are being finished and we needed to be out of the house.

But it wasn’t by design.  The floors were actually finished a week ago… but then got scuffed up by the painters dragging their ladder across the floor to do their job.  Was the scuffing bad?  Not really… but enough that it bothered us.

We called the general contractor to express our displeasure.  Some people in his position would have argued, said the scuffs were to be expected, blamed it on others, etc.  Not our contractor.  His question was simple and straightforward, “What do I need to do to make you happy?”

Now THAT is the magic question.

We told him we wanted another coat of polyurethane put down to cover the scuffs and make the floors really shine.  At his expense, he did just that… and in fact, gave us an unexpected discount on the project to “compensate” us for our unhappiness and inconvenience.

Which got me to thinking about our industry… how would we respond to a dissatisfied client?  Would it be something like, “You approved the respondents… it’s not really our problem.”  Or “Sorry, but once you agreed to the survey questions, there’s not much we can do.” Or “That’s just the way some projects go.”  Or would it be…

“What do I need to do to make you happy?”

That question will get your client’s attention, will immediately change their attitude and then tell you specifically what does need to happen next.  And here’s the dirty little secret… what they ask for will more than likely be much less than what you would have been willing to do.

So, put the client’s happiness (not just their satisfaction) first and you’ll create a competitive advantage that will be tough to top.  And it’s not really magic… it’s just smart business.

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