In 1947 the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street was released. It has been a seasonal favorite ever since. In the movie the real Santa Claus is hired to play Santa at Macy’s Department Store. The movie has several plots going on throughout, but one plot had Santa telling people to go to Gimbel’s to buy items not carried at Macy’s. This was against the rules, but before long Gimbel’s, not wanting to look greedy, began doing the same thing. Soon long-time rivals Macy and Gimbel are reconciled to one another.
I thought about that movie yesterday when I did a similar thing. I was asked to look at a possible estate auction, but when I looked at it I knew it was outside my knowledge base. The family wanted the auction done much sooner than I was able to do it, but the greater problem was that I wasn’t sure how to sell much of the items that needed to be sold. After explaining both the timing issue and my concerns about my ability to provide them a quality auction, I suggested two other auctioneers who would be much more knowledgeable about the items to be sold. The family asked some general questions about auctions which I was glad to answer, and they were going to contact the two I suggested to see if one of them could do the auction.
The session on ethics we had in auction school taught us that if an auction was outside our level of expertise we should bring in another auctioneer to help us or refer the sellers to one who could do them a better job. I doubt this happens very often because most of us like to have lots of auctions. However, I’ve had auctioneers refer clients to me in the past, and I don’t have a problem doing the same thing. I knew this family and wanted them to have a successful auction, and I was convinced this was more likely to happen with another auctioneer.
Those of us who serve the public, whether in retail or by providing services, should always strive to find ways to best serve our customers. Some want to take short cuts depriving their clients of the best possible outcome, but those short cuts will eventually catch up to us. I could have done the auction, raise as much money for the family as possible, but I knew a different auctioneer could probably do them a better job. It wasn’t easy to make that recommendation because whatever auctioneer does the auction will probably make a good paycheck, and who doesn’t like getting good paychecks? But, our obligation is to provide the best possible service to our clients.
The best perspective for anyone in business is to take the long-range approach. Doing the right thing might cost us a few dollars now, but I am convinced over the long-term it will pay off far more than anything we might lose now. We all know people we will not do business with because of past experiences we’ve had with those individuals or the stories we’ve been told by others we trust who have dealt with them in the past. I do not want to be one of those people, and I’m sure neither do you.
Find ways to upgrade the service you provide your customers. Do more than you promised. Do the right thing every time and never compromise.