How Much Would Your Service be Worth …If Your Customers Could Decide?

4.22.14 Fred

Story provided by The Powell Consulting Group

Heading home from a recent business trip, I found myself with some much needed downtime during a layover at the Denver International Airport (DIA). Remembering that the shoeshines at DIA were amazing, I made a beeline to Fred’s Shoeshine Chair to get the special treatment that I and my shoes sorely needed.  As usual, Fred Sokol the owner pleasantly greeted me, sat me in the chair, and immediately went to work. For the next 15 minutes Fred’s masterful hands pampered and massaged my shoes to a gloss that reminded me of my days in the Army. Delighted at the much improved condition of my shoes  I reached into my pocket to retrieve the money to pay when something unusual happened.

I asked Fred how much I owed him.  To which he replied, “Pay me whatever you  like.”  Absolutely stunned, I repeated the question. Surely I couldn’t have heard what I thought I heard.  Nobody in their right mind would let the customer set the price of the service. Everybody knows that customers want something for nothing.  I looked at Fred quizzically as he stood there with a straight confident face. I imagine that he’d seen confused looks like the one I was wearing from customers many times before.  This man had to be crazy I thought, so I asked again, “Fred how much do I owe you.”

Confidently, Fred spoke as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a fistful of money sporting a slew of twenties on top, “Pay me whatever you  like.” Looking down at my shoes and up at Fred’s confident expression, I felt compelled to be generous because Fred had definitely been generous to my shoes.  During the ensuing discussion Fred indicated that he started that practice two years earlier and it resulted in him actually getting a raise.  He proudly proclaimed that customers could see the value that he gives and were very willing to pay for it.  What a novel way of thinking!!

I was returning home from a consultant engagement in Phoenix and the experience with Fred gave me pause to ask myself, “Given the option to decide, what would my clients have paid me?”   That encounter with Fred, gave me a friendly reminder that my success is dependent on the feeling that my customers have about the value we add. Since all of us are in the business of selling our personal services, this reminder should ring true for everyone because the supervisor who writes your performance appraisals, the colleague who could use your help, the team that needs your ideas or the  customers who walks in the door, all have something to say about our success.  If we adopted Fred’s business model, I’m willing to bet that you would immediately ramp up the quality of your products and services, improve your attitudes toward the customer, make better use of your time, and be more meticulous about the environment in which you deliver those services.

Before you give Fred’s idea a try, consider these important points about Fred’s approach:

  • Fred made sure he had the skills to deliver the quality that would be rewarded.
  • Fred took care of his tools and used the best resources.
  • Fred was a master at marketing in worth – flashing that fistful of money was no accident.
  • Fred had confidence that there’s higher person in all of us just wanting to do the right thing.
  • Fred was well grounded in the ideal of always giving your best even if you didn’t get rewarded every time.

I was pleased with my service and the value that Fred provided so I paid him generously. The question is – how much would you make if your customers decided your value?

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