My eyes popped open, and I had one thing on my mind…. grab my gear, my dog, and get down to my favorite fishing hole before anyone else does. It was still dark as I fumbled my way out of my tent. Destiny squinted her eyes at me as I shined my flashlight at her and whispered “C’mon girl, let’s go!”…. her expression as she stretched and yawned was “Good God woman, where are we off to now? Why can’t we sleep in like normal campers?” …. No, not us, not today… today we are catching trout for breakfast!
I threw my gear in the back of the truck, motioned to Des to jump in the cab and we were off – bumping down a mountain road at 5:00am. Once we arrived at the rivers edge, the sun was creeping over the mountain ridge, and wildlife was either on it’s way back to bed, or rising for the day. A deer jumped the path in front of us, and Destiny growled and raised her hackles. The river twinkled in post-dawn glory, and the current was swift and swirling in all the right places. I edged myself out to a rock, carefully balancing my fishing pole in one hand and tackle box in another. I didn’t have the fancy gear of most anglers. Just cut-off shorts, an old fishing vest, and Teva sandals. Destiny took her place on a flat rock near by and sunbathed with one eye on me. Crouched down, picked out a fly I had tied especially for this occasion and tied it to my line. Upon standing, I flipped the line out as far as I could, but fell short of my target, the deep swirling water at the basin of the pool. I dragged my line back in and flipped again, this time snagging the tree behind me. With a frustrated yank, the tree let go of my fly and I ripped several leaves with it, smacking me in the head.
I looked around, praying no one was watching me….. Nope, just Destiny, but I suspected she was laughing at me, “ha.. woman, serves you right for waking me up so early… ” Suddenly, we both heard the sound of a branch breaking behind her. She went into full alert, raised her ears and the hair on her back, and growled in the direction of the path. I heard heavy boots tramping down the trail, and figured another angler was coming down to join us. I might as well give this prime real-estate to him, I can’t get my line out where it needs to be anyway. Feeling defeated, I started to pack up my tackle box. Destiny rose to greet the stranger, and I looked up to see a man dressed in olive drab clothing. Great. It’s a Game Warden.
I gave Destiny the command to let her know to let the stranger through, and she wagged her tail at him. He stopped, patted her and said “What a nice doggie”…. I was fully expecting to get a ticket for not having her on a leash. He looked out and saw me balancing on my rock and I nearly lost my balance as I waved. Without hesitation, he hopscotched his way over to me and stood on the rock adjacent to my perch. “How’s the fishing this morning? Catch anything?” He quizzed.
“Just that tree behind me… I’m about ready to pack it in.” I answered as I looked at the shredded leaves at my feet. He laughed. “Can I see your fishing license?”…. After checking me out and seeing I was legit, he eyed my fly box. “Impressive fly collection!” … and I blushed, “Yes, I tied those myself.” He knelt down to get a better look “Really? These are really good!” I then told him how I had been tying since I was 10 years old, taught by Bob Bibeau and we exchanged stories about Bibeaus fly shop in North Windam for a while.
He then saw my rod with the price sticker still on it, and I hadn’t even taken the plastic wrap off the cork handle. I explained that while I had tied flies since I was 10, I was pretty novice at fly fishing. “May I see?” he asked, as he extended his hand for my fly rod. “Sure” I said, passing it to him. He tore the plastic off the cork and my heart sank a little. I guess I just committed myself to this sport and won’t be returning the rod. He then pulled some line off the reel and with a flick of his wrist rolled the line into a beautiful arch, and my fly landed expertly where I had been trying to land it all day. Immediately, a trout jumped towards my fly and we both gasped. He handed the rod back to me and I reeled in a 10″ brook trout that I released. For the next hour he stood on the rock and taught me how to roll cast…. A skill that I have held on to, and every time my line loops and dances on the water, and my fly floats down and kisses the river, I smile and think of the Game Warden who took time out of his day to teach a girl to fish.
I think about this Warden when I tell people how to go above and beyond for their customers. My fishing license fee helps pay for restocking the rivers, marking trails, and wildlife conservation. The Warden helped create a life long customer that day by taking some time to help me enjoy the sport.
In what ways can you slow down and take some time to create life long customers?
Create an instructional video of how to use your products and services – Even if you provide a service you can create a “how to” video. Take your clients by the hand and show them step by step how to get the most out of your products or services. If you are a coach, massage therapist, or another “heart-based” business – you may want to see if you can video tape a session with another client (with permission). Even a video of how to sign up as a client may be helpful.
Meet them where they are – The Warden hopscotched out to meet and greet me on the river.. he did not make me come back to the river bank. He met me where I was because he knew I would be at ease. He also wanted to know what I was doing, and how I was doing it. In his case, he was making sure I wasn’t breaking any laws. But in customer service, it’s to create a comfort zone and earn trust. If they are not ready to click the “buy now” button, ask questions to find out what stage they are in your purchasing cycle. If you aren’t sure what the stages of your purchasing cycle are – your potential client won’t know either. It’s your job to guide them through those stages.
Break the rules – While it’s important to have company policies – be flexible enough in your policies to be able to provide a positive customer experience. The Game Warden could have ticketed me for not having Destiny on a leash, but he saw she was well behaved and on voice command. He was willing to over look an infraction to provide me a positive experience. We returned to that river bank for years after, and her ashes are scattered along that river. Talk about a customer for life.
How do you go above and beyond and create life-long customers?
Until next time -Hit the Heights!
Priscilla Hansen Mahoney
Business Leadership Guide
Oh I love your story and you caught my attention immediately because I have a real thing for game wardens. Are you familiar with the Joe Pickett series – of course like every other female fan I have a thing for his friend bad-boy Nate. Never mind, back to the subject.
Anyway, wonderful analogy and very enjoyable journey getting us there. I especially like your point about being willing to break the rules. I started out in another lifetime working for large corporations and later switched to small business and I am so glad I did because the flexibility allows for much better service and relationship building. Thank you for the inspiration!
Priscilla Hansen Mahoney
Thank you for reading and commenting! I too worked for a large corporation – I totally understand your feelings on flexibility and freedom. I don’t think I could ever go back! Welcome to the Trail Marquita!