What Does The Guest Hear?

September 6, 2012 4 Comments

Blog Editor Allen F. Weitzel has been a trailblazer in the recreation field for 45 seasons, most recently leading the safety and training department at a California amusement park for 25 seasons.

By Allen F. Weitzel

My car was getting poor gas mileage, so when I took it in for service, I asked to have my low-restriction reusable air filter removed and cleaned. I get better gas mileage using this type filter. While the car was being serviced, I was told it only had a stock paper air filter in it. I surmised that at the previous visit the service tech must have removed my reusable filter and replaced it with a stock filter instead.

I wanted the dealership to pay for a replacement filter, but proving that the dealership was in error would not be easy. I was not 100 percent sure I was 100 percent right. (See Customer Service Lessons From Goats – http://tapmag.com/2011/09/21/customer-service-lessons-from-goats/) We compromised with me buying a new filter and they installing it at no charge.

I called an auto parts store. I told the employee what I needed and the kind of car I had. He said he had the correct filter in stock. I told him I would come in the next day. He said they could only hold it for that day, but even if someone bought it, they could order another and have it in two hours. That is what I thought I heard.

Much Ado About Nothing

The next morning I went to parts store to buy the filter on the way to a doctor’s appointment. I told the employee why I was there. He said, without checking, that they did not have the filter. The employee said they never had one in stock to begin with. I shared my recall of my previous phone call. The employee then told me that he was the one I spoke to and I had it all wrong – there never was one in stock. He then lectured me on his version of the call. No apology about a possible misunderstanding, he just told me I was wrong. Wow!

I asked if the filter could be ordered for same day delivery; he said yes. I said to myself, “Okay, he is bizarre, but if I get the filter today, I can still get it installed before the weekend.” He then wanted my phone number, so I gave him my home number. He said he would call when the part arrived, but it would be within two hours. I told him there was no need to call because I would just return after my appointment. He then asked if I would be at the number, I gave him. “No, I will be at the doctor’s office.” Then he wanted my cell phone number. I gave it to him, but told him the phone would be off, because I only use it for emergencies. He was happy that he had the cell number anyway. He said he would call. I left. Whew, what an ordeal!

The Saga Continued

While I was at my doctor appointment, a voice mail came to my phone saying that the part was at the store. I returned to the store. I found the employee and said I was there to pick up the part. He asked if I got a call. I said I did. He said that he did not call me. I told him someone left a voice mail that the part was in. He was upset that someone else made the call, not him. He sent another employee to get the filter. I asked him to confirm that we had the correct filter. He did do that. As he was ringing up the sale, he started giving me a sales pitch for the filter I was already buying. I did not need his sales pitch. It became clear that this employee wanted to have the last word, and to always be right. He wanted to know more than the customer.

The Message

A management friend of mine has a saying, “Customers are not always right, but they do know what they want!” Let your customers save face. The product may be the same at different businesses, but if the service is outstanding at one business rather than the other, the customer will return to the business where they get good, helpful service. The customer does not want to hear that they are wrong, or listen to employee opinions. When employees think that they are always right and they say so, they feel good about their accuracy, but you may lose a customer. As I tell my leadership students, “customer service is not about always being right, it is about staying in business.” Management needs to really listen to what the employees are saying to their customers.

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4 Comments to “What Does The Guest Hear?”
  1. Jay Douglas says:

    I wouldn’t have bought the filter there after that ordeal.

    • Jay, I hear you, but I was on a time schedule, so I sucked it up and did my business there. However, I did come away with a Blog idea, and hopefully some managers will read it and use the lesson to improve the customer service that their operation provides. Thanks for reading and sharing your view. Always, very much appreciated. Best, Allen

  2. Paul Warren says:

    Dear Mr. Weitzel:

    You are so right! I have some employees who try to impress the customers with their “knowledge.” I remind them that we’re not
    in business to match wits with the customer, but to satisfy their
    needs and wants, and sometimes what they want is to feel respected
    and appreciated.

    A very good reminder sir. Thank you.

    Paul Warren

    • Dear Paul, Good point and the silent answer that the Guest gives is that they never return as a customer. I had a trainer who worked for me, who absolutely lived by that rule: if he received bad service (of any kind), he never went back. He did pound that concept into his trainees. Thanks for your follow up. Best, Allen

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