Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Lesson Learned in Really Bad Customer Service from Bob Howard Toyota

It's been an interesting weekend. I like to try to see the lessons even in bad situations in life. I also like to use real-life business situations to learn and apply lessons about customer service. For example, if you want to experience really great customer service, just visit any In-n-Out Burger. I'm always amazed.

On the other end of the spectrum, just visit most MacDonalds. They seem to have mastered the ability to forget that the customer is the one that keeps them employed. I experienced that this weekend, but here's the one that really got me.

I spent Saturday morning with my adult son trying to get some help on a car deal gone bad. It's a long story, but the short version is that we went to a supposedly reputable dealer here in the Oklahoma City area (Bob Howard Toyota) looking for a used 4Runner. We were shown and sold a Land Runner which belonged (but not exactly - we found out later he had just registered the vehicle but didn't have the title yet) to one of the salesmen. Therefore, it was a private sale which took place on the lot. About a week later, the vehicle started overheating and eventually (after $600 of repairs) learned that it is a blown head gasket. (About another $1,300 in repairs)They told us if we had any problems, just to come back in and they would help us get anything fixed. OK. That didn't happen.

You can read the longer version here:

So, we went back in yesterday and asked to speak with the general manager. I was expecting at least a somewhat friendly attitude. Instead, we got a jerk who acted like we were wasting his time. He took no ownership of any issue. When I asked him how he felt about salesment flipping cars on his business lot (essentially taking away his business), he agreed he didn't like that.

OK, so here's the point of this story. 1) I want the local community to know through Google, and 2) it amazes me that the manager could not even treat like a potential customer, which we were.

I would point you to a great book called "Customers for Life" by Carl Sewell, who owns one of the premier car dealerships in the U.S. From Sewell's experience, a satisfied customer who returns to your business for life will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. Plus, they will tell their friends. I know many people who have used the lessons in that book to transform their businesses into customer-friendly businesses.

I wonder how much money Bob Howard Toyota spends on television ads. (In Oklahoma City, it seems that all you see are car and furniture ads!) I'll tell everyone I know about how badly my son and I were treated there. I've later learned, there have been others. This story makes ours look tame:

This experience has burned in my memory the value in treating my customers right. My current and past clients will tell you that I will bend over backwards to serve you well. That's why I offer a no-risk, no-hassle guarantee on all my e-learning offerings. If you aren't happy, neither am I.

It's not just about the money, either. It's about doing the right thing, about being treated like I would like to be treated. I learned my lessons in customer service from my father who owned and ran a service station when I was a child. I saw first hand how well he treated people and how they kept coming to his station for gas. Those were the full service days - I washed my share of windwhields!

As testers and QA professionals, we all have customers. Yes, internal developers and users are our customers. One of the best ways a QA or test team can earn respect and show value in a company is to treat our customers well. Like at any business, it is the customer that keeps you in business. That is true for both you and me!

Thanks for listening. It was cheaper than therapy!

Have a great week!

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