Shipping is Personal

By Beacon Staff

You might not be aware of it, but my wife is a junior high school teacher.

6th grade to be specific. Know what that means? Hormones. Drama. Lots of change and other stuff.

Having a teacher in the family means we watch every teacher movie ever made.

Last night, The Ron Clark Story was on cable.

It’s a true story about a teacher who leaves a rural teaching environment not unlike CFalls and takes responsibility for teaching an inner-city elementary class in Harlem and turns it into a high-performance environment (you knew that, since they don’t make movies about crappy teachers).

One of the many challenges Mr. Clark gave his students was that he would help them not only pass upcoming standardized tests, but that they would score above grade level.

A short time later, the kids are trying to explain why they didn’t do well on a pre-test they took while Mr. Clark was out sick with pneumonia.

“It’s nothing personal”

One of the students says “Hey man, it’s nothing personal about you, we just can’t pass these tests.”

Clark comes back and tells them “Everything that happens in this room is personal. Everything we say to one another is personal.” (and he goes on from there)

It works the same way in your business.

Everything you do for (or to) your clients… is personal. Everything you say to (or about) your clients… is personal.

Like shipping.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with some folks about shipping.

Like Coke vs. Pepsi and Ford vs. Chevy, the discussion was one of rivalries.

This time is was about Fedex vs. another shipping firm.

During the conversation that mostly centered on the failings of another shipping firm, I commented about the quality of service my software business received from a Fedex driver who has been the only driver in Columbia Falls for 10 years.

I chose them because their consistency and quality directly reflected on us and it was a big first impression thing for us. We didn’t want the very first thing we shipped to our customers to arrive late. Not really a very good way to start off a relationship.

Fedex vs. other services is always a no brainer in my experience.

Tim our Columbia Falls Fedex guy picked up almost every one of those packages over the years before I sold the company. Even now, four years later, he still picks them up for the folks who own the business now.

That’s consistency. Even now, when I get a box via Fedex or I see him around Columbia Falls, he calls me by name.

If you think about it, it’s not a super big deal. I mean – hello! – my name is on the package. It seems like a pretty obvious thing to personalize your service, yet no one else bothers to do so in my experience.

Instead, you just get handed the little electronic pad to sign (or a clipboard), and you get a “Have a nice afternoon”, and they’re on their way.

It’s a little thing, but it’s also a big thing. It makes you feel like a customer, a client, not just a stop on a route.

One more thing, Columbo said…

What other message does that Fedex guy send?

It strikes me that if you’re the Fedex guy for 10 years for one town, Fedex must be focused on something other than moving people through the driver position.

Other companies who send a truck to my business or my home rarely send the same driver twice. Maybe there are logical reasons for that, since it’s more the rule than the exception. Still, Fedex stands out as such an anomaly there, that it makes me curious.

There are a number of reasons. Maybe Fedex pays well, or maybe they take good care of their drivers, or both. I touched on this last week when I asked you if anyone would notice if your entire staff changed overnight.

If Tim disappeared, I’ll bet every Fedex customer in Columbia Falls would notice. If the drivers of other deliver services changed, would their clientele notice the difference, or is it just business as usual for them?

How is your business delivering consistency?

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.