My Coffee Pot Caught Fire – and Other Lessons for Advocates

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burningcoffeeIt was the SMELL – you know, that noxious, horrifying smell of burning rubber… That’s what alerted me to my smoldering coffee pot which was no longer just heating my coffee… No flames (OK – so that photo is a bit of exaggeration), no residual damage to my kitchen, but it did take two days to get the smell out of my house.

Once the emergency was averted (I admit – the only real emergency was that I really wanted more coffee!) – it was time to get down to the business of purchasing a new coffee pot.  So I did as all good consumers do – I went online.

Truth is, that coffee pot was the best one I had ever had – with only one big drawback. So I thought… well…maybe I would just get a new one just like it. It wasn’t very expensive. It had lasted as long as any other (before it caught fire). It made good coffee. My favorite feature was the fact that my coffee was kept warm for 4 hours before it shut off automatically – meaning – hot coffee all morning long!  My least favorite feature was that when I set the timer to brew the coffee before I got up every morning, it would emit 5 high-pitched beeps when the coffee was ready. Frustratingly, as often as not, I could hear those beeps from the bedroom, which (of course) would wake me up. No, that can’t be adjusted or turned off. And yes, that small annoyance was enough to make me look elsewhere.

That’s when I realized there’s a lesson for all of us in my new coffee maker pursuit. Think, for a moment about the relationships between advocates and their clients. While they are far more personal than my relationship with my coffee maker, there are some parallels from which we can learn a lesson…

If there is something that is going to cement the relationship between advocate and client, it will either be a big thing (“She saved my father’s life!”  or “He negotiated my hospital bill to almost nothing!”) – or it might just as likely be something that is much smaller, but appreciated in a big way (“She always calls me Thursday morning to check in.”)

(… or  “I love that the coffee stays warm for 4 hours!”)

If there is something that is going to kill the relationship, it might be something huge (“My mother died!”) but it will just as likely be something very small (“For some reason she just can’t spell my name right.”)

(… or “I really hate those high-pitched beeps – they wake me up!”)

The point being – that our success with our clients is judged as much on the little things as it is on the big ones.

Our service to our clients is most definitely about the big things – those core services we offer, the reasons they hire us to begin with. We must be constantly vigilant, and manage expectations about those big things.

But what may make or break the relationship, and further, determine whether our clients then pass the word on to their friends about our capabilities – our word of mouth marketing – is the little things – the little things like checking in with them regularly, remembering a birthday or a grandchild’s name, giving a little extra beyond your contract, thanking them in writing after your work is finished….  those things that aren’t as easily measured or quantified but which add up to a strong, ongoing, appreciated relationship.

So, my fellow advocates – it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee!  What little things do you do for your clients to keep them happy and satisfied, making referrals, and coming back?

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Agree? Disagree?

Share your experience or join the conversation!

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