Monday, March 09, 2009

The Fred Factor

The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn

In The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn describes a postal carrier whose name is Fred. When Sanborn moved to the Denver area and purchased a home, his mail man took the time to introduce himself, welcome Mark to the neighborhood, and get to know a bit about him. Because of Sanborn's extensive travel schedule, he was out of town a fair amount. Fred said he'd be sure to hold mail if it would begin overflowing the mailbox so that it wasn't apparent to potential thieves that he wasn't home. Once when Sanborn got back from a trip, he found his welcome mat not in its customary spot in front of the door but over to the side of the porch covering a package along with a note from Fred. Fred placed it there to help conceal it from the public eye to provide further security to the home. In addition to this, Fred always took an interest in what was going on with Sanborn's life as well as many other customers along the route. He embodied what Sanborn described as an exceptional postal carrier.

Fred took what was a seemingly routine and potentially monotonous job and took great care to provide outstanding service to his "customers" who came to consider him more of a friend than a post man. He had no great resources at his disposal other than pieces of mail and the relationship he formed with the people on his route. Fred became an outstanding representative for the US postal service.

Sanborn goes on to describe other examples of "Freds" that he's encountered and their approach to customer service. You have probably encountered Freds in your life as well. I can think of several flight attendants in traveling who provided this type of excellent flight experience whether through a cheerful disposition, the inclusion of humor in the generic flight instructions, or going out of their way to make sure you were completely comfortable.

Another book which describes this concept with different terminology is Lunchmeat and Life Lessons by Mary Lucas. She terms this the "comeback sauce." In other words, when working with customers, give them that extra touch that keeps them coming back due to the exceptional service they receive.

While I think Sanborn's encouragement for people to go above and beyond in their career is good, it is not natural for people to do this out of their own nature. Many people are selfish and yes some may go out of their way to help others and provide a lending hand but by and large many are primarily interested in looking out for number 1. I think when coupled with faith in Christ, there is a deeper rooted motivation and desire to do things like this. If left to our own devices, though, this may be done on a more limited basis.

It would have been nice if we could have followed Fred throughout the book in each of the principles explained. We first saw Fred at the beginning and then Fred the actual man was not really in the picture until the last chapter.

Both the Fred Factor and the comeback sauce principle are excellent to keep in mind when working with clients. Thinking of ways to provide added value to clients will keep them coming back again and again.

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