Be careful not to look cheap like the Washington Nationals

I’m sure that many of you have heard these “business buzz words” before; “giving added value or added benefit” to your clients. Many writers in the security field have written about the need to give extra service as a way to stand out from the crowd.

I think it’s an outstanding idea. We incorporate it in the way we deal with clients and potential clients. I knew a private investigation business owner in the D.C. area who used to charge clients a hefty consultation fee when they would call up to ask about hiring this person.

We give free consulations. I feel that it is very important to educate the client about what a private investigator or E.P. Agent can and will do for them. Even if they eventually hire someone cheaper, I have given them pointers about what can and just as important, what can’t be done.

These days it is especially important to “under promise and over deliver”. Just about everyone is feeling the effects of this tough economy. Consumers are shopping around more and making longer decisions before parting with their hard-earned cash.

That is why I was so surprised with the way the Washington Nationals treat their customers/fans. A couple of days ago I booked some tickets online to take my five year old son to his first Baseball game at Nationals’ Stadium this afternoon.

I’m well aware of taxes and costs that are levied on hotel rooms, airline tickets, concert tickets etc. It’s common practice and the likes of the airline industry keeps finding ways to charge us to the point of turning it an art form.

Back to the Nationals tickets. Sure I had to pay a booking fee and entertainment or sports tax, but the last surcharge before pressing the send button on my credit card really took the biscuit.

I had three choices of how I wanted the tickets delivered. Firstly, I could have the online tickets sent to my e-mail, secondly I could have the tickets texted to my phone and thirdly I could have them left at the “will call” box office.

I opted for the third option. Option one and two all had a cost associated with them. It was a small cost; $1.50, but why should I have to pay anything at all to have an automatic responder send an e-mail or send a text? Was it not enough buying four tickets and spending more money at the concession stands before leaving the stadium?

If you want to impress a client or impress your employer – don’t penny pinch. Don’t “cut things too close”. If you are assigned to be at a location at 5pm, don’t plan on getting there at 4:59pm. If you do, you’ll most probably wind up arriving at 5:05pm, or later. There’s an old saying that goes; “Early is on time, on time is late and late is being fired”.

If you are late (which you should never be in the first place of course), don’t try to send in a time sheet the next week stating that you were early. You probably won’t get away with it, but even if you did, would an extra 10 or 15 minutes pay be worth tarnishing your ethical and moral fibre?

I ask, because I have seen and see it happen. Trust me when I say that it makes me look at someone in a whole different light when I see them try to claim time that they did not work.

On the other side of the coin, when I see an employee show up at an assignment 20 or 30 minutes early, or my favorite – go out and advance a location eventhough they were not asked to do that, I look at them in a WHOLE different light.

That is the personification of added value. That is someone who gets it and will go far.

The Importance of Trust

As an instructor and trainer, I am constantly reinforcing the importance of living by one’s word.

Integrity, Honor, Loyalty – all of these fine characteristics are the building blocks upon which reputations are raised. It is of the utmost importance in any walk of life to “live by your word”, but in the security profession – especially where the protecting of life is concerned, it is everything.

I attended National Stadium last night and watched the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets. I was fortunate to have been invited to enjoy the game from the president’s box. During the pre-dinner networking, I ran into a business owner whom I had met a few years previously. He had been introduced to me at that time as his business involved him being around some area celebrity sporting stars.

Being interested in a chance to possibly offer executive protection services to these stars, I arranged to meet with this business owner to discuss how we might be able to assist one another. I remember it was during the winter and the roads were a little suspect in places as I drove the 25-30 miles to be closer to his location.

I arrived a little early, as is my custom and waited for him to arrive. It became clear after about an hour that he was experiencing some difficulty or had some other reason for being so late. I left a few voice mails and called it quits after around 90 minutes. He never returned any of my calls but when I reached him about a week later he admitted that something else had come up. Unfortunately, he did not think it worth his while to let me know this with a phone call.

So, here I am last night and this same person is introduced to me once again. Maybe he didn’t remember back three years ago because he started to tell me about some connection that he knew that may be a “good fit” for my company. His small talk fell on deaf ears. He had already lost all credibility with me and eventhough I have not thought about it once in the inetrvening years, as soon as I saw him it came back as clear as day.

In his book; “The Speed of Trust”, the author Stephen M.R. Covey sums it up best – “keeping commitments is based on the principles of integrity, performance, courage and humility. It is the perfect balance of character and competence. Particularly, it involves integrity (character) and your ability to do what you say you are going to do (competence).”