She called in this morning and needs same day service. Her husband is disabled and has had an accident on the carpet. I delicately asked questions so I could determine the nature of the accident without offending the woman. She was not doddering, but actually quite sharp. And very, very crabby. Angry, one might say. She actually loves Chem-Dry, but apparently they could not give same day service, so she's resorted to eeny-meeny-miney-mo in the Yellow Pages. I was Mo. Without hesitation, I knocked $10 a room from our regular price when I quoted. Hey, I wanted the job! I sized her up, floating questions out as gently as a dragonfly on the water. I tried to softly educate her about why Chem-Dry can't clean her human waste issues on the carpet. Uh-uh. She's not having any of it. And we'd "darn well better not leave the carpet wet" when we leave. Yike.
When I e-mailed the work order to Cesar and Justin, I added a message along the lines of "Old. Tough. Angry. Good luck." Justin called in from the job after they had arrived and inspected. "Geeeez, Limes, you weren't kidding. Mean! Angry at the world. I kept my eye on her at all times because if she had a cane, I knew she'd pull it out and hit me with it. She didn't tell you her husband has accidents all the time and these rooms are full of spots. 'An accident last night' barely begins to tell the story, Limes, and we're not charging her for anything extra. She would have shown us the door." A high degree of angst in Justin's voice. "We'll be 2 hours, Limes." "OK, home dude, keep your cool. Where is Cesar in all of this?" "Laying low, Limes!" Yow.
In the next chirp, Justin's voice was even more strangled. "Limes, she's going to call in her credit card number to you. She doesn't think she wants 'our sort' to have her number." Home dudes never feel very warmly toward customers who take that tone with them. "All right, Justin, I'll take care of it. Move on to your next."
The lady's sweeter twin sister called in. Her voice was light, almost flirtatious. "Hi, Sweetheart, I want to give you my credit card number." Thought I, "Sweetheart? Who are you and what have you done to my crabby old lady customer?" She: "Wait just a minute, I can't read you the number without putting on my glasses." Limes: "Yes, M'am, you're talking to one." She gave me her credit card number, expiration date, put a $40 tip on the job, and asked me when I could get those wonderful boys back out to clean the rest of her carpet. I nearly toppled from the chair. And, p.s., home dudes don't love to be called "boys". Just like Limes doesn't like to be called "sweetheart" or "honey" by people who don't know me or anything about me.
I sat back and thought about something David has modeled for me. David goes off about as well as it can be done. I imagine he really can shoot flames out of his nose and ears simultaneously. But it's not what he does first. He loves Sonia Sotomayor's soundbite: "Reasonable people can disagree." He has modeled a tool he uses midway between first taking the irate phone call and pulling the plug: When the customer is going on and on about the cost, the attitude, the cleaning solutions, the machinery, or whatever else provoked their ire, David always says, "Tell me the results of the carpet cleaning." He already knows the answer, because we do excellent work. And most people are big enough to say "it's great", even though they don't want to. When we convert a crabapple to a fan, we call that "the flip". Cesar and Justin did the flip today. The mantra: keep doing what we do, just as well as we do it, and everything else will take care of itself.
I featured Justin today because he's the home dude it was happening to. His handling of it is remarkable, because Justin has made the most change of any of our technicians. He joined us with a strong enough back, but lacking some of the finer points we want a lead technician to possess. He can be cranky, and he was a hard case. We once had to fire him for a little while and he's had a scrape or two.
Here's why he gets high marks from me. He stayed in for many months when he was assisting someone he didn't like, but whom he realized was a carpet cleaning guru. He has never once been heard to say anything other than "You're right, I messed up." when he's been taken to task.
He's become a fine technician who does the job so well the first time, every time, that's he doesn't get go-backs. His blue eyes and friendly manner are attractive to men, women and children. He gets lots of repeat business, customer referrals, and is an asset to our little company. But here are the things I truly savor when I interact with Justin. He has a wicked sense of humor ~ quick and irreverent. He has learned to be a diplomat out in the field, not someone who blows up and gets tossed out. While most home dudes are aware of the headlines, Justin always has something to say about the headlines. He's bright and savvy and hates injustice. David ends every staff meeting with a question and opportunity for input: "Any queries, quibbles, complaints or concerns?" I admire that while most of the others sit silently even when a storm is brewing, Justin will open the doors to discussion about the hard stuff. He contributes to the well-being of our little band of dark angels. Is he my favorite? Yep, just like each of the others.
In my ears right now: Mellencamp. I like to sing "Cherry Bomb" at the top of my lungs and I dance while I sing it. I try to dance just like he dances in the old MTV video for Cherry Bomb. " . . . our hearts were really thumpin', say yeah, yeah, yeah, say yeah, yeah, yeah . . . . "
Something that charmed me: Mother Badger e-mailed last night with some praise for my blog and some serious blogging questions she is pondering. In this e-mail, she gave me what-for because I'd suggested in a post that someone over 80 was "old". This post will likely give her a stroke. I'm sure I'll hear from her.