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Customer Service Equals Customer Retention

Furniture World Magazine


Remember, customer service is an action, not a department!

My dry cleaner has a very large picture framed in his store. It shows several men in white shirts and ties, but without pants. The men are playing miniature golf in front of a dry cleaner’s shop with a sign that reads,“Play Golf Free While Having Your Suit Pressed.” The caption on the picture reads “Great customer service can beat the pants off the competition.”

There’s a lot of truth to that statement. This past week I had two unbelievably bad experiences with companies I have done business with for years. I will probably never return to the one store simply because of an uncaring attitude. The other, whom I swore I would never do business with again, got me to change my mind.

The first was a car dealer. It was a Buick dealership where I had purchased and serviced at least four of my cars. I dropped my car off for service one night. The car was supposed to receive a simple inspection, oil, lube and filter. Nothing out of the ordinary. They left a message for me the next day saying to call them, as they couldn’t fit my car in because they were too busy. I would have to wait at least four days for an inspection, and none of their bays were available for an oil change. So I gave them a call.

I asked for the service department. After five minutes on hold, I hung up and called back. I asked for service again. This time I got the body shop.

They said they couldn’t transfer the call, and to call back. I called back again. After another five minutes on hold, I hung up and called once more -- same ordeal. So this time I called back and asked for the manager. He wasn’t available. I asked to talk with a salesperson. One of the salespeople picked up the phone, and I asked him to go to the service department and find someone who would talk to me. I explained I had been on hold previously for 15 minutes while calling back three times. He reluctantly did what I asked, and after a little more time on hold, a person in service picked up. He said he realized that I had dropped off my car on Thursday, but they couldn’t get to it for at least four days. They were too busy. I explained the inspection tag had expired and I needed it quickly.

He said, “that’s the way it is.” When I mentioned the problems I had getting through I was told that I was calling after 4 p.m. when inexperienced people answer the phones, and when the service department has too much to do. He asked if I wanted to bring it back the following Wednesday or Thursday. I said I would “put him on hold for a minute” while I called the Buick dealer across town. They said I could bring it in right away. That service department said they didn’t want me driving with an expired inspection sticker, and they always do oil changes in 30 minutes. I said I would be right over. I then went back to the person on hold and told him to forget it. I didn’t need the aggravation. I decided that my next car probably won’t come from that dealership.

I called the next day and explained the situation to a salesperson. Her answer was “things just aren’t the same since the old manager left,” she said. “We’re having these complaints all the time, and we have to bring in temps to answer the phone.”
My second customer service run-in happened with a golf equipment catalogue source. It’s a company where I have purchased putters, drivers, wedges, golf bags, and golf balls with the unrealistic expectation of bringing my game to a better level. I had placed an order for some Nike logo golf balls. I was told when placing the order that they would arrive in four to six weeks. My credit card was charged, yet they never arrived. I called them after six weeks and was told I ordered 6 dozen and the minimum order was 12 dozen, so they wouldn’t be coming. I asked why they never called to inform me. The customer representative said, “I guess we were too busy.”

But he was willing to give me 13 dozen for the price of 12. I said I didn’t want them that bad, and to send me a check back, since I had used a debit card. He explained he couldn’t do that, but would get back to me. It was not their place to make sure items were shipped. The customers are responsible to let them know if a problem occurs. I never got the credit, and I never got a refund. So I called back and asked to talk with a principal of the company. Believe it or not, I had a VP on the phone in seconds. I told him what he could do with his company, his catalog, and his golf balls, and he said he couldn’t believe this had happened to me. He said he was going to call Nike and call me right back. When he called back he offered to give me seven dozen balls for the price of six, have my last name imprinted on the balls (like Tiger Woods), and ship them overnight at no extra cost. He told me to call him directly with any future problems I may incur with his company. I liked this guy. I told him I had already destroyed his catalogue and had asked to be taken off the mailing list. He said he would send me two more, keep me on the list, and asked that I please continue to use his company. Plus, a gift would be coming to me in the mail because of the inconvenience.

What a difference his attitude made. I now tell my golfing buddies about the company’s great customer service, and I’m getting ready to place an order for a $300 driver&Mac220;that I don’t need. It’s guaranteed to take five shots off my game.

Do you see the difference? Customer retention was important to one while the other dealership had too many other things to think about, beside customers. The dealer had a change in manager, change in people handling incoming calls, and too much service work. This was not my problem; my problem was my car. They are going to find out quickly that there are other dealers who do 30 minute oil changes, look out for their customers, and sell cars as well.

They’re also able to answer their phones without putting customers on hold for five minutes at a time.

The golf retailer knew that golfers can be impulsive buyers. They will purchase items they don’t need, for twice the price they should pay, and on a regular basis. Be nice to them... that’s all it takes. Customer retention is how your business is going to grow. You decide how important it is.

Remember, customer service is an action, not a department.

Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative Selling®, a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies for high-ticket retailers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented worldwide to major companies and industries. Questions or comments can be directed to FURNITURE WORLD at editor@furninfo.com.