It Ain't Got No Compression!

I enjoy cutting my grass. 

As a student in optometry school, I was able to help pay the bills by cutting grass for a few local Memphis families.  I have always said that if this optometry thing doesn’t work out, I can always open a lawn care company. 

But as a busy professional, I was forced to give up the weekly summer task and I hired someone to care for my lawn.  I am fairly particular about my lawn, so I have had several individuals help with my lawn.  Coincidentally, my son, Samuel became a teenager at a time that a lawn care change was needed and we decided it was time for him to learn.  He was happy to learn that I would be working beside him to assure he is not missing any steps. 

 Rothschild and Son Lawn Care has functioned for a few years without too many dilemmas until the blower stopped working recently.  It’s a nice blower.  Samuel and I compared the various solutions of repairing the blower or buying a new one.  We decided that getting it repaired was the best option. 

I tried to fix it myself but failed to even get the plastic cover off of the unit.  I called the manufacturer and was disappointed in the advice they gave me.  I Googled small engine repair but these companies don’t worry as much as we do about their social media presence.  I finally “asked around” and was able to find someone with a great local reputation who could “fix anything.”

I enter the repair shop to find all types of shiny new lawn care equipment on display.  I also see a section of refurbished equipment available too.  I am carrying a big backpack blower but don’t know where I should go.  Finally, across the showroom, I see a desk with two men, chewing something and looking at me. I cautiously decide to approach them. 

As I walk up to the desk, their expression never changes, nor the pace at which they chew whatever it is that is in their mouths.  Are they eating breakfast?  Is that gum?  I smile and ask the gentlemen how they are doing.  The small one replies, “Alright.  What can we do for you?”

I explain my dilemma and he startled me by sternly asking, “Well, are you going to let me see it?”  Suddenly I realized that I will not be experiencing a high level of customer service. 

I smile nervously and say, “Sure, help yourself.” 

He takes my blower away, leaving me to fumble around while the big one continues to watch me and chew.  I ask him if I should just wait.  He shrugs his shoulders.  I wonder over to the blowers to see how much a new one costs.  I become an expert at blowers and continue to look around.  This is taking longer than it should and I am getting a little more tense.

I see the repairman return with my blower to announce, “It ain’t got no compression,” then he stares at me.  Obviously it is time for me to respond with some course of action.  He is looking at me, waiting – what do I say? 

Finally I reply, “I don’t know what that means.” 

He said, “9 times out of 10 that means somebody ran pure gas through it and 9 times out of 10 the carburetor has gone bad but it could also be bad coils.”  I still don’t comprehend what he is saying so I continue to look at him.  Then finally he asks, “Do you want to buy a new one?”

I ask, “Is that my only choice?”

He replies to me with a tone that shows I have irritated him with my stupid question, “I mean, I guess I could charge you $30 to see exactly what’s wrong but 9 times out of 10 a new carburetor is almost as much as a new blower and it will take me about a week to know anything.” 

I have a rule to not make a financial decision when I am excited, angry or drinking and this guy made me angry.  I asked him if I could think about it.  His disgusted departure away from my blower suggested that he was fine with my decision to leave. 

So I thought about it.  I calculated the time I had invested in the repair, the various places I could buy blowers, the business lesson for my son and calmly made a decision.  But this made me think about how easy it is for us to operate our practices like this “repair” shop.

We work there every day and know how things are supposed to operate, but is it clear for someone coming in the first time?  Are we ready to receive people when they enter the doors to our practice?  Do we ask them what they need, when we already know?  What about our beautiful frame boards that we make people pass to check in? 

I also began to think about how we communicate the testing we do to our patients.  We do a lot of very complicated, technical work that can be tough to understand.  We just don’t have time to explain it completely to everyone, so we tend to stop trying.  Is our process making our patients feel safe during their time with us?

Sometimes we express concern and explain it to the patient by gravely saying, "Your pressure is a little high today and the visual field may have changed some."  Not everybody knows why that matters.  Most people don't know the difference between progressives and transitions yet we talk to them like they should.  

And what about your recommendations?  Are you making it clear what you think your patients’ need or are you leaving it up to them to make uneducated decisions? 

Periodically, we have to take a look at the path through our practice through the eyes of our patients.  Many like to use “secret shoppers” but I prefer to just talk it out with the entire team.  Compare how you want it to be with how it really is and fix what you can.  The path begins with communications with the practice prior to their visit and continues until all of their eye care needs are completely met. 

If you look away from your customer service strategies too long, you will be more like the small engine repair shop than you care to admit. 

Truly yours,

p.s. To see an example of what I consider to be acceptable service in small engine repair,Watch This.