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Don’t put cement in the kitchen sink

Monday night we learned that combining pasta and sourdough starter in the kitchen sink disposal makes cement.

In hindsight, this inadvertent chemistry experiment seems like a silly thing to have done. Nevertheless, our dinner adventure led to 36 hours of plungers, vinegar, and snakes, resulting in frustration…but little else. Despite our valiant efforts, our now-unusable kitchen sink demanded professional attention.

Still, as my father always said, it costs you to learn.

My bride called a plumber from YELP and was told “$89 to assess the problem, plus the repair cost.” She made an appointment. I went ballistic.

I didn’t mind the service charge but objected that it wasn’t being applied to the repair. Especially since we knew what the problem was.

To placate me, my bride called another plumber, whom we hired. This plumber charged $105, complete, for this service. They also provide a 90-day guarantee.

Plumber #1 was surprised to hear he’d lost the job because of the service charge. His response; “That only applies if it’s a real plumbing job. To snake a kitchen sink is $74.”

Too late. Despite the 42% premium, we went with Plumber #2 and moved on with our lives.

Plumber #1 SHOULD have gotten the job. His price was better and he was our first call. But his staff was poorly trained, gave out bad information, and scared us away to a competitor.

It’s a lesson any business owner can learn from, regardless of what you sell. Whoever is answering your phone is the first line of defense, and the information being provided to consumers may make all the difference in whether you close the deal.

Most employees don’t have the same vested interest in a business as management does, and they don’t see anything wrong with blowing off a potential sale. Looking over staffers’ shoulders to see how they talk with prospective customers should improve your quality control and your bottom line.

Not sure how to start? Have three friends pretend to be sales prospects and report results to you. These people might be friendly, clueless, or belligerent, but the objective should always be the same. Repeat quarterly, and start looking for patterns. You might be pleasantly surprised…or sadly disappointed…to see how your company’s represented publicly.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

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