4 Lessons Anyone Can Learn from Fred’s Example in Customer Service
I was at an event recently and had a chance to visit with different people with varied backgrounds and professional pursuits. Someone asked the group, “are you a Fred?” and maybe more importantly, “do you have any Freds in your organization?”
That intrigued me enough to pick up a book written by Mark Sanborn titled The Fred Factor. What a simple, yet compelling book for anyone to read and think about to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
The book starts out with a story about how Sanborn’s mailman and his mail delivery created an extraordinary experience. According to the author:
“This postal carrier stopped by my house right after I moved in to introduce himself and welcome me to the neighborhood. When he learned I traveled almost 200 days a year, he suggested I give him a schedule and he would hold my mail, bundle it up and only deliver it on the days I was home. I suggested he just leave the mail in the box on the side of the house and I would pick it up when back in town. Fred, the mail carrier, suggested that was a bad idea because burglars watch for mail building up in the box. He suggested putting what he could in the box and the balance between the screen door and front door.
I started to wonder if this guy was for real and really worked for the U.S. Postal Service.
Two weeks later, after coming home I noticed my front door mat was on the side of my porch. Under it was a note from Fred. While I was gone, another mail carrier had delivered a package to the wrong address. He went and got it, left it on my porch and covered it with the doormat so it was safe with a hand written note so I knew what was going on.”
Over the next 10 years, the author received exceptional service from Fred the Postman. He could always tell when a substitute was on the job, as mail was jammed in the box as opposed to neatly bundled. These encounters inspired the author to figure out what the “Fred Factor” is and what it takes to become one.
So, how can we get more Freds in the world? That’s easy to answer: Be a Fred! Only if you make the ordinary extraordinary will others see the possibilities for themselves. One thing seems common to all human beings: a passion for significance.
So, what does it take to be a Fred? There are lots of nuggets and good points in this book but a great place to start is with the 4 main principles the book outlines:
Principle #1: Everyone makes a difference.
Only employees can choose to do their job in an extraordinary way. Yes, the right management, structure, procedures, and culture of a company all matter, but in the end, only employees can CHOOSE to do their job in an extraordinary way. Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional. The question to ask yourself everyday is what kind of difference you made on that day. A good reminder is to know more and notice more.
What we haven’t been told nearly enough is that people give work dignity. There are no unimportant jobs, just people who feel unimportant in their jobs. B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine, said, “There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive.” Think about that for a minute!
The Fred Factor emphasizes that the more value you create for others, the more value will eventually flow towards you.
Principle #2: Everything is built on relationships.
Fred is proof that, in any job or business, relationship building is the most important objective, because the quality of the relationship is what differentiates the quality of the product or service. Most mail carriers can get the mail in the mailbox, but Fred got to know the person so he could deliver exceptional service custom tailored to them.
Principle #3: You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny.
Don’t have enough money? The necessary training? The right opportunities? In other words, do you ever complain that you lack resources?
Then consider Fred. What resources did he have at his disposal? A blue uniform and a mail bag. That’s it! He walked up and down the streets with that bag of mail and his heart and head full of imagination. By the end of the day, Fred had beaten a silent competitor that threatened his potential. That competitor is mediocrity—a willingness to do just enough and nothing more than necessary to get by.
Principle #4: You can reinvent yourself regularly.
The only difference between a rut and a grave, as the old saying goes, is the depth.
Become a sponge for ideas. Learn how to distinguish between activity and accomplishment. If you want to reinvent yourself, answer these questions:
- What are the most important lessons you have learned?
- What did you once deeply desire to accomplish that you never attempted?
- Whom do you most admire?
- Which of their skills and characteristics would you like to develop in your life?
Work on your IQ (implementation quotient). How many good ideas die for lack of action and follow through on your part? Knowing you could have made someone’s day and actually doing it are two different things.
You might want to practice the one-a-day plan. If you do one extraordinary thing a day, whether at home or work, your work will be a record book of the extraordinary.
These four lessons can apply to anyone in any industry, but it is especially true in the building products industry. Building is unique in that, despite all sorts of modern and technological advances, it is still almost entirely built around relationships. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how smart or creative we are with marketing if the people making, maintaining, and nurturing the relationships aren’t acting like Freds.
So, how about giving it a go? It’s time for those in the building products industry to learn from Fred—and help create more of them.
Stay tuned for part two of this book review, which will cover how to find and develop Freds as employees.