Friday, February 27, 2009

It's Called "Margin"

It won't butter toast (ar ar), but it makes life smoother!

I told you yesterday about buying a car. I left a part out. I didn't mention the dealer, except to commend his business reputation. I didn't leave with any question about his honesty or integrity. In fact, I would choose to do business with him again and have no trouble recommending him.

But I left less than fully satisfied. The deal was fine. The salesperson was good and I felt comfortable with him. The experience left something to be desired.

I am usually busy during my work week. This week was even more hectic. The easiest, most efficient way for me to communicate with the dealer was through email. My salesman answered my questions quickly and thoroughly. I was met, shown the car I wanted to see and taken for a test drive. I followed up with a request for the final price with all fees. It was promised the next morning -- the time I requested -- and arrived as promised. So far, so good.

I knew the salesman was checking to see if they could come down further on the price and wasn't surprised when the answer was "no." The price they quoted was well under their wholesale value already. I then asked only for one addition to the listed equipment on the car. I requested a minimum of two keys -- three if possible -- and two remote openers. Most of you know that keys are now electronically encoded and they aren't cheap!. I also know that they are a huge markup item when sold to the public.

I received two. The minimum.

I provided some basic information by email in order to speed up the paperwork process. Upon arrival, they had a few more items they needed from me. I provided those and sat down with my father-in-law to wait. We sat in the showroom, which was amazingly quiet (probably short-staffed due to the economy and and off-site sale that day). Still, no one offered us anything to drink and water or a soda would have been appreciated -- it was warm that day.

I felt like we were "outsiders", even though I had just handed them a rather large check. There were none of the little extras that say, "It's great to do business with you!" At the end, as I took the keys, the salesman thanked me for the way I handled the transaction. I walked away and that was it.

Margin. It's what happens when a person keeps their promises "and then some." It's the second mile. It's the candy on your hotel pillow. It's the unexpected bonus.

With Jesus Christ, it was "Come on down, Zacheus, for I'm going to your house today." For a girl in Genesis 24 named Rebekah, it was, "Here's some water. Wait and I'll water your camels, too!" Margin is when you reserve the time, energy and money to forsake the good and do the great.

Margin happens because we make it a priority. We don't try to blacken every square millimeter of our life parchment with the ink of activity.

Then, when we encounter others, we have something extra to give them.

Do you have Margin?

Or are you spread too thin?


C. Beth said...

I loved that book, Margin, when I had to read it in college!

I think my amount of margin varies widely from day to day.

A friend of mine is a professional painter. In a referral group we were in, something she said really impressed me and stuck with me: "I always try to do something extra that the customer isn't paying for," she said. An example she gave was washing all the light switch and outlet covers before replacing them.

Her company has gotten my business twice. We even had some customer service issues the first time, with the painter she'd employed who did our house. But she handled our dissatisfaction in a way I was happy with, and we were very satisfied when we hired her company again. It's amazing; she's incredibly busy, and yet somehow she still has the margin to give a little extra.

beckiwithani said...

I'm going to say something cynical.

When D and I bought a used car last year, we had all the Dunkin' Donuts coffee and donuts that we could want. When we were working out the financing, they would go refill our coffees if they got low.

That dealership is now out of business.

(BTW, I do think that the time and energy part of "margin" is far more important now that most businesses can't afford to invest the money part. So what that means is that I think the dealership should have offered you water, and gone to get it for you ... but, if they'd offered you coffee or snacks, I bet that would mean they wouldn't be able to sell their cars quite as cheap!)

mumof2 said...

I own a small bussiness and I always go the extra mile with my customers because it makes them feel appreciated and it is nice to give back to them.

Dina said...

Sam, this is a timely post. I have been spread too thin the last few weeks with little margin left for the relationships that matter the most. Prayer and conversations with trusted friends have reminded me to use my map again, so that I quit making so many wrong turns. I've never heard of the book "Margin" that C. Beth mentioned, but am very interested to find it and read it.

Isabella said...

I worked in hospitality for many years...this Margin was expected. It took me a long time to realize that not everyone follows this.

Even in struggling financial times, people can still do small things to make others feel important. Yes, I try to do this as often as I can, but my husband is much better about it: compliments the cashier at checkout in the grocery store, when a server asks "how are you today?" in a restaurant, he responds then asks how he/she is doing (and by the tone of his voice, really makes the server feel like he wants to know...because he does).

I may feel spread too thin at times, but it doesn't take much to exercise Margin.

Thank you for this post and for the reminder. :)

C. Beth said...

Dina: Here is a link: Margin. That's the search results on Amazon--it's the first book you see (by Richard Swenson), but he has other "spinoff" books too. (The original was written quite a few years ago.)