Ed Bas
This month's editorial focus topic is service, sales and marketing. It also marks the beginning of the busy season for many of our readers: hopefully a nice, hot summer will follow on the heels of a too-mild winter for most of us.

But¿ are you constantly telling your customers how busy you are? Making phone callers wait a long time on hold? Telling them they'll just have to be patient, because your service techs are really backed up, or the installers need some time to catch up on all the work they've got?

It must be nice to be making so much money. But it's also a turn-off to potential new customers, who are just as likely to take their business elsewhere. Do you ever walk into a crowded store and turn around and walk out again, deciding it's not worth the hassle?

Think about it for a minute. If you were a first-time caller, would you want the owner telling you his problems, or making excuses? Wouldn't you be a little leery of getting lost in the shuffle, of being perceived as just a number, or of getting little in the way of personal attention?

Every caller wants to know they have the full attention of the person they are talking to, even if it's only for a few minutes. A caller wanting an estimate on a new furnace wants this job, no matter how big or how small, to be taken seriously. It's their money, after all. They don't really care about how many other projects you're involved with on the other side of town, or how crazy things are now because you're suddenly short-handed.

It might rate a mention if they're calling for emergency service on the coldest night of the year, when others are also demanding immediate help. But don't dwell on it, and don't make it a habit. It's OK to be busy, but don't allow yourself to come off looking frazzled, or wound too tightly, to your customers¿ who most likely aren't familiar with what's going on in your shop, and don't care anyway.

I recently had two encounters, one with a remodeling contractor and one with an insurance agent. Both failed to provide what they said they were going to. Then, when confronted, they apologized and gave me the old "I've been so busy lately¿" blah-blah.

Which is exactly what it was to me. Meaningless blah-blah. Fine, I thought. I can understand that. We all get a little behind now and then. But let's move on. Do now what you said you were going to do, and no more excuses. If you really can't handle the business, find some people who can. Or walk away from jobs you can't or aren't prepared right now to handle. Cancel the advertising until you can catch up. If a customer hears from you more than once how busy you are as an excuse for not doing what you promised, it's too late. Customers aren't likely to be impressed with how many other customers you have. They're more likely to find someone who can handle their needs, without excuses.

Look at us, we're special department: The International Training Institute (ITI), which is a joint effort of SMACNA (Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Association) and the SMWIA (Sheet Metal Workers International Association) holds its national sheet metal apprentice contest in Detroit May 1-4. It is the 30th anniversary for this prestigious event, and we welcome them to our fair city.