h1

Where is the Service in Customer Service?

July 29, 2010

We’ve all heard Marshall Field’s saying, “The customer is always right.”  While it makes for a nice catch phrase, businesses rarely practiced it.  Worldwide markets tend to devalue the importance of the individual customer resulting in a William Vanderbilt attitude of “the public be damned.”

Many industries meet the general needs of consumers.  Take the automakers for instance, they provide a rich selection of feature on their various makes and models.  Still, they provide the features thought to appeal to the mass market rather than the desires of individual customers.  It makes sense; Ford Motor Company should not be expected to provide a flushing toilet in a car just because one person asks for it.  On the other hand, time proved Henry Ford wrong with his famous quote: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black[i].”  The company soon realized it had to meet the basic wants as well as the basic needs of people to sell its products.

While we understand the limits in production, that in no way limits good customer service.  I remember my dad always wanted to own a Jaguar XKE.  For him, it was the ultimate sports car.  Not until I was an adult he have the financial means to buy his dream car, but by then, of course, the XKE was more a collector’s item than a car for daily driving.  He settled for one of current production models.

At the time, my dad drove a Ford F-150 Lariat with just about every extra possible.  It was a very nice truck.  He drove to the Jaguar dealership in Savannah and talked with the salesman for over an hour deciding on one from the lot.  It was a done deal really; my dad was going to pay for it outright.  All he wanted to know was how much the dealer would give for his truck in trade.  “Oh, we don’t take trucks here,” was the curt reply.  “You can go down to the corner, there is a used car guy there that will take it,” he further said as if shocked at the suggestion and that added insult to injury in my father’s eye.  The man was serious; they would not take the truck in trade.

After explaining that if he drove his truck off the lot, he would not be back, the dealer did not budge.  My dad drove his Ford F-150 Lariat with just about every extra possible off and headed to the Jaguar dealer in Atlanta, four hours away.  He asked the salesman one question, “Will you take my truck in trade.”  The salesman replied, “Of course we will.” To which my father told him “Son, you just sold a Jag.”

Ultimately, that car proved to be nothing but trouble for my father but he never forgot the salesman that “treated me with respect,” as he put it.  To the day my father passed away, he told the story of the salesman in Savannah that would not take his truck.  Moreover, he sang the praises of the dealership in Atlanta that did.  He would take his Jag to them; they would work on it, give him a loner car, take him to lunch, and generally make him feel he was important to them.  Even with a car that was problematic, their customer service kept my father coming back.

That is the lesson for people when they do business with any company, select one that treats you, as you want to be treated and avoid the ones that do not.  Your vote is with your dollar.  Had that dealer in Savannah simply done a little legwork, such as call the guy down the road and make the deal, he would have had a loyal customer for life.  As it is, that dealership closed long ago while the one in Atlanta goes on.  Could the arrogant attitude of the sales staff have something to do with it closing?  You bet!

If you allow yourself to be treated like one of a million cattle heading off to slaughter, that is exactly what you will be.  You will be used, processed and forgotten.  There is rudeness in the nation’s retail business because we, the customers, allow it. If a sales person, checkout clerk, store manager, or any other employee is rude to you, simply walk out.  Leave your buggy of groceries right there at the checkout stand and go.  Make a loud statement that you will not pay to be treated that way so everyone can hear.

It does not matter what a store thinks; if they want your money, it’s your rules.  You do not need to buy a Jaguar to have the respect of a sales staff.  As my dad’s case demonstrates, buying one in itself, does not guarantee that respect. I think my father would have gone down the road and sold his truck if only the salesman did not act insulted at the suggestion of taking it in trade.

Today, we deal with huge companies with automated customer service phone systems designed to frustrate the customer into simply dealing with their particular problem rather than deal with the hassle of receiving the support they pay for.  Cellular phone and cable/satellite companies come to mind.  They have a national strategy dealing with support that has little accountability to individual customer.  If your cable is not working and you talk with a service center across the country, just how vested are they in solving your problem?  While choices are limited regarding cell phones and TV connection, the one that provide service at a local level with provide better support.  Their livelihood depends on it.

In the end, the customer may not always be right but the customer has the money companies want, which makes them right by default.  Make companies earn your money, demand service, and hold them accountable when it’s not provided.  Sooner or later, if enough customers vote with their dollars, they will get the hint.  Either that or they will join the trash heap of companies that rode poor customer service into oblivion.


[i] Ford, Henry, and Samuel Crowther.  “Chapter IV.” My Life and Work,.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Pages 71 & 82, 1922.  Print.

<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –>

We’ve all heard Marshall Field’s saying, “The customer is always right.”  While it makes for a nice catch phrase, businesses rarely practiced it.  Worldwide markets tend to devalue the importance of the individual customer resulting in a William Vanderbilt attitude of “the public be damned.”

Many industries meet the general needs of consumers.  Take the automakers for instance, they provide a rich selection of feature on their various makes and models.  Still, they provide the features thought to appeal to the mass market rather than the desires of individual customers.  It makes sense; Ford Motor Company should not be expected to provide a flushing toilet in a car just because one person asks for it.  On the other hand, time proved Henry Ford wrong with his famous quote: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black[i].”  The company soon realized it had to meet the basic wants as well as the basic needs of people to sell its products.

While we understand the limits in production, that in no way limits good customer service.  I remember my dad always wanted to own a Jaguar XKE.  For him, it was the ultimate sports car.  Not until I was an adult he have the financial means to buy his dream car, but by then, of course, the XKE was more a collector’s item than a car for daily driving.  He settled for one of current production models.

At the time, my dad drove a Ford F-150 Lariat with just about every extra possible.  It was a very nice truck.  He drove to the Jaguar dealership in Savannah and talked with the salesman for over an hour deciding on one from the lot.  It was a done deal really; my dad was going to pay for it outright.  All he wanted to know was how much the dealer would give for his truck in trade.  “Oh, we don’t take trucks here,” was the curt reply.  “You can go down to the corner, there is a used car guy there that will take it,” he further said as if shocked at the suggestion and that added insult to injury in my father’s eye.  The man was serious; they would not take the truck in trade.

After explaining that if he drove his truck off the lot, he would not be back, the dealer did not budge.  My dad drove his Ford F-150 Lariat with just about every extra possible off and headed to the Jaguar dealer in Atlanta, four hours away.  He asked the salesman one question, “Will you take my truck in trade.”  The salesman replied, “Of course we will.” To which my father told him “Son, you just sold a Jag.”

Ultimately, that car proved to be nothing but trouble for my father but he never forgot the salesman that “treated me with respect,” as he put it.  To the day my father passed away, he told the story of the salesman in Savannah that would not take his truck.  Moreover, he sang the praises of the dealership in Atlanta that did.  He would take his Jag to them; they would work on it, give him a loner car, take him to lunch, and generally make him feel he was important to them.  Even with a car that was problematic, their customer service kept my father coming back.

That is the lesson for people when they do business with any company, select one that treats you, as you want to be treated and avoid the ones that do not.  Your vote is with your dollar.  Had that dealer in Savannah simply done a little legwork, such as call the guy down the road and make the deal, he would have had a loyal customer for life.  As it is, that dealership closed long ago while the one in Atlanta goes on.  Could the arrogant attitude of the sales staff have something to do with it closing?  You bet!

If you allow yourself to be treated like one of a million cattle heading off to slaughter, that is exactly what you will be.  You will be used, processed and forgotten.  There is rudeness in the nation’s retail business because we, the customers, allow it. If a sales person, checkout clerk, store manager, or any other employee is rude to you, simply walk out.  Leave your buggy of groceries right there at the checkout stand and go.  Make a loud statement that you will not pay to be treated that way so everyone can hear.

It does not matter what a store thinks; if they want your money, it’s your rules.  You do not need to buy a Jaguar to have the respect of a sales staff.  As my dad’s case demonstrates, buying one in itself, does not guarantee that respect. I think my father would have gone down the road and sold his truck if only the salesman did not act insulted at the suggestion of taking it in trade.

Today, we deal with huge companies with automated customer service phone systems designed to frustrate the customer into simply dealing with their particular problem rather than deal with the hassle of receiving the support they pay for.  Cellular phone and cable/satellite companies come to mind.  They have a national strategy dealing with support that has little accountability to individual customer.  If your cable is not working and you talk with a service center across the country, just how vested are they in solving your problem?  While choices are limited regarding cell phones and TV connection, the one that provide service at a local level with provide better support.  Their livelihood depends on it.

In the end, the customer may not always be right but the customer has the money companies want, which makes them right by default.  Make companies earn your money, demand service, and hold them accountable when it’s not provided.  Sooner or later, if enough customers vote with their dollars, they will get the hint.  Either that or they will join the trash heap of companies that rode poor customer service into oblivion.


[i] Ford, Henry, and Samuel Crowther.  “Chapter IV.” My Life and Work,.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Pages 71 & 82, 1922.  Print.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: