Why Customer Service Needs to Have a Big Dose of Empathy

Late one day my car had a flat tire.  Not just a flat, but a complete blow out – I must have ran over something.  After going through the ordeal of changing it in eleven degree weather, I narrowed down my choices to venture out and go buy a new one.  I was only about three miles from a Sears, and previously I have used their auto center for various small repairs, so I thought that it was a good choice.

I arrived at the Sears shortly after 6:30 pm, and was greeted by a technician behind the counter.  I stated that I needed a new tire, and before I could even finish my sentence the guy said “Sorry, we’re closing at 7:00”.  Looking immediately at my watch (it was only 6:40), I said “Hey, you’ve got twenty minutes!  How long does it take?”  He just shook his head and started to walk off.  I then asked for a manager.

He then reiterated that they couldn’t help me, but added “The guys have to clean. “ And this gem, “Including you, we’ve turned away six people who all needed tires or batteries – so you’re not the only one.”  Incredible!

What has happened to customer service in America?  Sears, of all big brands, used to be the store for the average Joe.  Think Craftsman tools.  Sears Auto Centers.  Those are big mainstays with the American public.  Now, the store manager turns away six people so his shop can get cleaned and his crew out of there by 7:00.  I’m actually still shocked by this (it’s the impetus for this blog article).

Call me old fashioned, but I think that good, solid customer service has to start with viewing your company through your customer’s eyes.  What do they see when they interact with you?  A caring, dedicated, “we’ll solve your problems” company?  Are they making it easier for the consumer somehow?  Are they experts and will help you guide some tough decisions?

For Sears to turn away business, of any kind, when they are closing stores all over the country is just ridiculous.  Well, maybe that’s why they are closing stores?  This is a management mindset, and it’s passed down to the workers.  Remember what Deming said, “ that managements actions result in 85% of all a company’s problems”.

So for Sears to say to a guy that just spent an hour in eleven degree weather changing a tire, “we don’t want your business”, I’m going to believe them.

By the way, the folks at the Goodyear Tire store the next day sure were helpful.

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