Vince Lombardi is the famous football coach, known for a number of amazing accomplishments as well as always being on time, if not early, it’s the being on time part of what he’s known for that we’ll be covering in today’s customer service lesson.
Lombardi used to tell his players that they needed to show up to practice 15 minutes early. Otherwise, they were considered late. His fifteen minutes early concept came to be known as Lombardi Time. This was so well known that on July 20, 2012 a new clock was erected at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI that was permanently set 15 minutes ahead of the actual time. Lombardi’s belief was that being on time wasn’t enough.
I was twelve years old when I started my first business, a magic show birthday party business. My first show was for 20 six-year-old kids. I did a good enough show that the parents were willing to recommend me to their friends. Before I knew it, I was doing magic shows every week.
My parents taught me some valuable business lessons back then. Without even knowing it, they were teaching me about customer service. One of the most important lessons I learned was about time, specifically being on time.
When I performed my magic shows, there was minimal set-up time. I could walk into the home, the parents would point to the place I was going to perform, and five minutes later I was ready to go. So, for a twelve year old kid, being on time was arriving five minutes early and ready to go by the time the parents expected me to perform.
My dad had a different take on this. He asked me, “Let’s say your show is supposed to start at 1:00. At what point do you think the parents are going to start looking at their watches and wondering what time the magician is going to show up?”
Even at twelve years old, I knew where he was going with the question. All of a sudden I realized that five minutes early wasn’t early enough. I embarrassingly told him probably about 15 minutes before the show. And, by the way, this was long before Lombardi Time was in vogue!
He agreed and told me that from that point forward, whatever the time the show was supposed to start, if I didn’t arrive at least 15 minutes early, I would be late. So, I made it my practice to be at least 20 minutes early.
Maybe you’re meeting a friend or work colleague for lunch and you show up five minutes late. Big deal. It’s just five minutes, and you’re just meeting a friend. What’s five minutes? My belief is that five minutes late, or even just one minute late is a sign of disrespect. The message you’re sending is that your time is more important than theirs.
Show up one minute late to a job interview and you may not get hired. Show up one minute late to a flight and the plane may already be taxiing out to the runway. Keep your customer waiting and you may not make the sale. Late is late. And as mentioned, it’s disrespectful.
But being a minute or two early, and in some cases fifteen minutes early, is really more than just being on time. It shows dependability. It creates confidence. And be it for a personal meeting or something work related, it’s simply the right thing to do.