My wife and I just ordered a new furnace for our house. They don't make parts for our old one anymore and the new one will be a 95%-efficient unit. We bought it from Steve. I'd never heard of the manufacturer before but Steve said they make one of the best products on the market and I believe him.
I've known Steve for 20 years. He owns the company that inspects and cleans our furnace every fall. One year they discovered a hole in our heat exchanger, which is a serious matter because carbon monoxide can get into your house. And about 15 years ago, Chicago had an extremely hot summer and we decided to install an air conditioner.
But in the middle of a heat wave. it's hard to find anyone with the time to do it so Steve suggested that I install it myself. He knew I was handy and said he would coach me through the process, answering my questions as they came up. “Call me anytime you have a question,” he said. He meant it too. It took me a couple days to install it and I called him frequently with my questions. He even lent me his personal tools of the trade—including gauges to check the refrigerant pressure before starting the system up for the first time. After that I began to think about him differently.
One of Steve's employees suggested that it was time to think about a new furnace after he inspected our system this past fall. But I wanted Steve's opinion about the best product to buy. He sent an employee out to check our house and properly size the unit and schedule the installation. They didn't want any money down and gave us a contract to do the work including an installation date. They signed it but told me my signature was-n't necessary. I felt a little uneasy about this, thinking that they would naturally want assurance from us before they ordered the new furnace. So I said I would plan to be at home during the installation, would help them move the old unit out, and would do whatever else he needed—I wanted things to go well for them too.
Placing this kind of faith in a company and wanting them to succeed is unusual in this day and age, so I started wondering about what makes Steve and his company special (he is very busy, at a time when his competitors aren't). Here is what makes him successful in the minds of his customers:
- He genuinely likes people. When you walk into his store, there is always a warm greeting. Steve's office seems to be the front counter where it's easy to talk to him.
- He listens to your concerns and is empathetic.
- He really knows his trade and keeps up with the latest developments, and he can answer all your questions.
- He practices an “old world” kind of trust with his customers—you are more important to him than money and he wants to be helpful.
- His customers love to talk with others about how he treats them.
- His employees love to talk about their boss too. But you won't hear any bad press from them. They are a little in awe of him too and think he is fair to them.
- The owner is the face of the company. You talk about Steve, not the company.
The other day I helped a friend install some drywall at his home. A remodeling contractor friend also helped. In the course of conversation, we discovered that we all use Steve's company and the conversation then went to telling “Steve stories” and what he had done for us. Maybe we made him out to be larger than life. But when you think about it, how can marketing a company ever get better than that?