Archive for February, 2010

This is a true story that happened just two days ago to a close relative of mine. I decided to post it because to me, it represents all that is bad in customer service.

My relative, Jon, has been looking for a particular car for over a year now, it’s a high performance sports car and he had some very specific specifications in mind. On one of his many searches, he found the car he wanted, advertised by a garage on ebay. As luck would have it, the garage, although a fair distance from where he lives (London) was just a few miles away from his sister, near Derby.

He asked his sister to visit the garage and check out the overall condition to see if it matched with the garage’s description, it did and he was delighted. Within a couple of days he arranged for an independant mechanic linked to the cars manufacturers to carry out a detailed report, this was expensive, around £300, but given the sum he was paying for the car was very sensible. The report was favourable and Jon immediately caught a train to Derby to view the car and pay a deposit. Rather than take a train back to London, he borrowed his sisters car for the journey back as he was returning to collect his new car within just a few days.

Two days later, Jon set off from London with a friend for company, to collect his prized new car. The garage were fully aware of his imminent arrival that afternoon. Then disaster struck, his sisters car had a blowout some way up the M1, and much to Jons horror, found his sister didn’t possess a jack to enable him to change the wheel. The only thing he could do was ring the AA to come and help. It was getting late in the afternoon now, it was dark,very cold, had started snowing and all Jon could do was to ring the garage, explain what had happened and assure them that he was definately going to be there.

The response from the garage was ‘Well we close at 6.30’. Jon couldn’t believe it, he asked if he could send his sister to collect the keys and wait next to the car until he got there – they said no. All he could do was hope he arrived in time.

At 6.29 Jon arrived at the garage, to be met by the sight of the security guard closing the gates. The guard was apologetic and tried ringing one of the sales team, but they refused to come out. Astonished and angry, Jon and his friend had no choice but to stay the night at a local hotel and return for the car the next morning at 8.30am. I will not publish what Jon had to say to the garage the next morning, I’ll leave you to imagine that. It turned out that the person who went home (early) was the Sales Manager! I’m glad he’s not managing my sales.

If Jon hadn’t already paid for the car and invested additional money in train journeys and mechanics reports, he would probably have walked away from the purchase (it is a very expensive car), the garage would have lost a sale, which they certainly deserved to, but he couldn’t do that – perhaps they knew that?

Would it have been so terrible for the sales manager to have waited a few minutes? Or, as it turned out, waited until the closing time of 6.30, he knew the customer was on his way and having a terrible journey, but hurrying on his way as fast as he (legally) could.

A business that takes this approach to it’s customers doesn’t deserve the business, they made (an educated guess) quite a considerable commission from this sale, yet they treated their customer as valueless, they clearly haven’t considered the implications of treating people this way.

Business today, in order to survive and grow, has to be relentless in it’s constant review of customer service. It’s not good enough to simply meet customers needs, businesses have to exceed customers expectations if they are to grow.

Uniqueness alone won’t do it either, you might say laws of supply and demand might kick in here if the product or service is truly unique, and maybe if they were it might. However, for 99.9% of businesses they are in strong competition within a commercial world and cannot afford to treat their customers with anything less than wholehearted  priority. How can you have a business with no customers? That is the end result of not competing on the matter of ‘value’. How the customers feel valued and how they in turn value the service and product of the business.

The interesting twist to this story is, the garage may have thought it unimportant to annoy one customer, and he was from London anyway, a long way from the garage. What they don’t know is, Jon’s sister actually runs a pub just 3 miles from them, and several of her customers are also customers of that garage. It is likely that she will tell the story about how her brother was treated. I wonder how those customers will view the garage and their services after hearing what happened, it is possible that it may affect the relationships they currently have with those customers. All businesses should remember, it’s a small world and good reputations are very hard to build, but can be very quickly lost.


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