Valuing Our Customers
No big changes in the market to report over the last week (the aircraft market that is). I think now would be a good time to talk a bit about customer relations. I would venture to say that, on the whole, our company has a different relationship with a majority of our clients than most of our competitors. A large majority of the transactions we handle over a given year involve repeat customers or referrals. Very few of them involve an operator that we have no previous ties with. Consequently, we spend a lot of our time updating previous clients on current market conditions and aircraft values, even if they don't plan on any fleet changes in the foreseeable future. We don't charge for this service, we offer it because we value our customers and like working with them.
I will say that there are certain benefits of having this kind of relationship. Because we are so close with many of our clients, they are usually more than willing to help us out when it is needed. I was recently hired to analyze the performance of several aircraft out of a short field at various temperatures. The published numbers don't take all the variables into account, so the best way to determine real world performance is to talk to someone who flies that particular airplane every day. I imposed on several customers to do this, and everyone one I called was more than happy to oblige. I feel the long term gain we achieve by just helping our friends when they need it far outweighs any short term gain we might get by charging "consulting fees", "referral fees" or other a la carte services to our clients.
I have some customers that I speak to on a weekly basis year round. I have other clients that, although they might not spend a lot of time chatting with me when nothing is happening, I find I talk to them daily when representing their airplane for sale or helping them with an acquisition. My father is much better than I am at keeping close tabs on some of his best customers. He spends a lot of time with his clients/buddies on the golf course and in the field, bird hunting. My hobby is Ironman Triathlon, so I don't find quite as many corporate pilots willing to "play" with me on the weekend. But you would actually be surprised how many runners and cyclists are starting to infiltrate our ranks.
In the end, I think the best way to show our clients we value them is to be their friends. I try to listen to my clients' needs and respond to them in a thoughtful, efficient way, not just perform the bare minimum they ask. I understand that the reports I provide are typically passed up to the boss. If they are good, my friend looks good.
If the box office figures are accurate, most of you have seen the movie Jerry McGuire. It starred Tom Cruise as a sports agent who is fed up with the dishonesty in his industry. (I was shocked this morning to hear that the kid who starred in that movie with the big glasses and lisp turned 18 this week). The background voice of reason throughout that film is Jerry's mentor, Dicky Fox. Dicky would have been one heck of an aircraft broker because he always said the same thing when asked for his secret. "The secret to this job," he said, "is personal relationships." The next time you find your agent saying "Show me the Money"; you might give some thought to the kind of relationship you actually have with your agent.
Toby J. Smith
JBA Aviation, Inc.