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No – Mary Kay and I aren’t getting divorced. No way! But I got divorced from my cable provider this week. It was sweet!

This divorce story is a lesson for every leader. It is also one for their employees. Perhaps I can put this story in a manner that each of you can share with your entire team.

When we moved to Waco we got cable TV. Every man I know has to be able to tune into “Sports Center” each day to see the scores of the games. Often there is a Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movie on – better yet, a movie about sports. Ahhhh, “Field of Dreams,” “The Natural,” “Tin Cup,” etc. And who can live without watching “Caddyshack” (not “Caddyshack 2”) for the hundredth time? Cable TV rocks.

Mary Kay pointed out that we were now spending $180 a month for cable, Internet and our phone. Let’s see … after four and a half years at the house that is … um … almost $10,000! Many years ago I learned to look at the lifetime value of a customer, not the one-time value.

Leadership Lesson #1: Look at the lifetime value of a customer.

For $10,000 I expect decent service. I take that back. I expect very good service.

Mary Kay and I decided to move the TV in the bedroom to a different wall. There was already a cable connection in the wall so I knew it would be simple. It would have been, had the connection on the other wall been live. When I called the company to see if they could simply change it on line they said that wasn’t possible but that someone could come out the next day, Sunday, between either 8 a.m. and noon or 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. I chose the early appointment and commented, “What great service!”

Just after 11 a.m. Mary Kay called the company to make sure they were coming by noon as she had a flight out that afternoon and had we head to the Dallas airport when I got home from church. They informed her we weren’t even on the schedule. WHAT? They apologized and said they had no idea how that could have happened but said they could come Tuesday between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

By Tuesday night I was ready for them. I got home early and made sure all the lights were on and the TV was on so they could see the living room through the windows on the porch. At 7:30 p.m. I called them and asked them where my tech was. Remember, our appointment was supposed to be between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The service department told me the tech was running late. I let them know they could have called me. (After all, I’d already given them $10,000 so far.) I then concluded that he should be there by 8.

Leadership Lesson #2: Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you are going to be late, call.

At 8:30 I called again. I was in the kitchen the entire time – about 15 feet away from the door. All the lights were on, and the TV was on low so I could hear when they arrived. I was getting more frustrated by the minute. During the 8:30 call the service department said the tech was there, knocked on the door, and no one answered. Then the technician went home. The tech did NOT ring the doorbell, nor do I believe they actually knocked.

While on the phone with the service department I physically went outside, rang the doorbell so they could hear it ring, then told them not to reschedule. I was getting ready to serve the divorce papers! Immediately I went to the phone and called the other cable provider in Waco. Ten thousand dollars and two botched service calls and I was done. We were getting divorced.

The experience with the new company was wonderful. On a couple occasions they called to verify the time, make sure it was still convenient for me, and even offered alternatives if my schedule had changed. When they were within 30 minutes of the house they called again.

The next morning I took great pride dropping my old equipment off at the company’s office and told them we were divorced. I also said I was never coming back. When she asked if a supervisor could talk to me I replied it wasn’t necessary. The company had completed an automated, recorded follow-up call after the second no-show. I rated them as low as anyone can rate them. No one called back.

Leadership Lesson #3: If someone takes the time to leave a voice message on a survey stating that they are very upset – call them back!

Now I look back on the experience and want to share one final lesson.

Leadership Lesson #4: Just because someone is your customer today they may opt to work with someone else tomorrow. We need to continue earning our customers’ business.

I hope to see many of you in Baltimore this week. I know that I’ll be learning many leadership lessons from all of you in the next few days!

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