These Days You Need Some Hustle

I was having a discussion with someone yesterday regarding the lack of customer service that’s rampant in stores, businesses and restaurants around the country.  For every great experience and interaction, there seems to be two or three mediocre exchanges and at least one horrific one too.  Ray Kroc, the famous founder of the McDonald’s restaurant chain once said, “You are only as good as the people you hire”.  That is as true today as when Kroc said it then.

For example, I recently moved from Florida to Wisconsin and with winter quickly approaching it was obvious that I needed to replace my Florida grade anti-freeze with something a little heartier.  Using some technology, I quickly discovered that the closest business to my residence was a Midas Muffler shop.  Mid-morning on a Saturday, I drove over and pulled up to Midas and entered the building.  They had a large window out into the shop, and with five or six service bays and about a half dozen auto technician’s busy working.  Only three cars were up on the lifts, and one person was in the lobby leafing through a magazine.

I approached the counter and spoke with a young woman about getting my anti-freeze and oil changed since I was due.  She looked down at her monitor and told me that I needed to make an appointment for Tuesday, as that was the earliest that they could squeeze me in.  Huh?  One person in the lobby and about half of the car lifts apparently available and I have to come back three days later?  I explained that I needed the service and wouldn’t mind waiting a little bit if she could finagle my car a spot in the line-up.

She refused my request, and mentioned that she could call over to another Midas shop about 10 miles away and see if they had a spot.

I just don’t understand the rationale here.  A customer walks in and wants to spend money.  Why not try to do your level best to make them happy?  Don’t send them somewhere else!  To make matters worse, her cavalier attitude and apparent disregard for helping me really started to gnaw at me.  I thanked her and decided I would just wing it and find another place down the street…after all anybody can change the oil and replace anti-freeze; it’s pretty common.

As luck would have it, I found a local repair shop about three blocks down from Midas.  They were jammed with business, and after I spoke with the owner about what I needed, he said “Sure, we’ll fit you in quickly.  Would you like some coffee while you wait?”  Eureka!

Thirty minutes or so later I’m out the door and happy.  I don’t know if the difference was that Midas was a chain, and they have it staffed with apathetic people behind the counter – while the other shop was obviously locally owned, with the drive to be more helpful and caring as it directly affects them.

Lesson here – what signals and messages are you sending your customers when you interact with them?  How does your staff engage and communicate with your customers?

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