Today I took my car in for some routine service and to get a state inspection sticker. I normally take my car to a specific Toyota dealer because they have aways given me exceptional service. I am willing to pay a bit extra for good service.
When my wife and I took the car in at 8:00 this morning, they told us it would take about 2 hours. Great, I had an appointment at noon and that would give me plenty of time. At about 11 am we hadn't gotten word the service was done and I started to worry. The repair desk was very busy so I peered into the wok area, but our car wasn't there. Hmmmmmm.
I looked outside and noticed the car parked outside. I thought maybe the service was done but they had neglected to tell us. I asked the cashier but she had no idea - I had to go to the busy repair desk to check.
The man at the counter said he would check on the car so I went back into the waiting area. It's now 11:20, my wife goes out to check. The man at the counter sees her ticked off and decides he better check on our car.
He comes back and tells us that the car hasn't been inspected but we are next in line. "Sorry, we'll pay for the service and take the car somewhere else, I have to go."
He tells me that if I can wait ten minutes he'll do the inspection right then and we wouldn't have to pay for it. Fine, I can wait ten minutes. 20 minutes later the car is finally done. We get the car and the repairman has left a half-full container of Gatorade on the passenger seat. We hurriedly pay the bill and leave, not noticing that we had indeed been charged for the inspection.
Ouch - they get a D, and they only got that because they were always courteous.
There's practically nothing you can do to tick off a customer more than waste their time. I'm not unreasonable, I know that sometimes things take longer than expected. However, we had been kept waiting because other people, who had come in later without an appointment had been put in font of us.
There is nothing more valuable to me than my time. I tend to look at things from a billable hours perspective. As consultants, my wife's and my billable hours are worth multiple hundreds of dollars. If you waste an hour and a half of my time - a free inspection sticker doesn't even begin to make up for it.
Likewise - when the cable company gave me a 4 hour window that I had to sit at home waiting it was inconvenient. When they never showed up I was furious. A single month's free cable did not make up for it and didn't make me happy. It's been almost 10 years since it happened and I'm still ticked off.
Every company will have screw-ups with customer service from time to time. Nobody is perfect. If you want to keep your customers you have to make them whole. If you own a restaurant, and one of your waiters spills tomato sauce on a customer's coat it's not enough to pay for the cleaning. You should comp the meal, and offer to take the coat to the dry cleaner and then deliver it clean to the customer.
Just paying for the cleaning means that you are forcing the customer to take the coat to the cleaner - taxing their time. Guess what they are thinking about when they are bringing the coat to the cleaner, picking it up, and then trucking the bill over to you? They are thinking about how that stupid waiter spilled the sauce, and what a pain in the butt it is for them.
When I showed up at my noon appointment 1/2 hour late today, and I hate being late, all I could think about was how ridiculous my wait had been. Has the dealer lost me as a customer? Maybe. They have given me about 10 years of good service, so they get maybe 1 more shot. If they mess up again - goodbye.
My wife and I are planning on buying a new Toyota this year, so they may miss out on that, as well as the rest of my life in service calls. Their failure to keep me happy may cost them tens of thousands of dollars in business.
Think about what to do if your customers aren't absolutely thrilled with your service. What's a customer worth to you? How far are you willing to go to keep your customers?
J D Moore - Marketing Comet