“Organizations don’t serve people, individuals serve people. In the customers’ eyes the institution is only as good as the person they are interacting with at that moment. In other words, the individual is the organization.”
Though I was driving farm tractors and pick-up trucks by age 13, not to mention replacing my 1970 Plymouth Valiant’s water pump and radiator at 20, I’ve never felt super comfortable in auto parts stores. I’m probably not alone.
If there is ever a time to help me feel welcome, it’s in an auto parts store.
I walked into an Auto Zone store with a luggage cart trailing behind me carrying a dirty tractor battery. Catching the eye of a gent behind the counter, I cheerfully said, “Hi! How are you?” The response was a sans-personality, monotone, “What. Can. We. Do. For. You.”
Ah, a person whose face would light up a room if he left. Got it.
When I showed him the old battery, he led me to an expansive wall of batteries of all sizes, colors, and brands.
Then he made a statement that left me confused, so I asked a clarifying question trying to understand which battery he felt was right for me. Pointing, he stated tersely, “That one.”
Then the STORE MANAGER turned his back on me and walked away.
I was stunned. Really. I can’t think of any customer service training program that would teach a person to ever turn their back on a customer and walk away prior to the customer feeling his problem was resolved.
(Maybe he’s not read Outstanding! and the chapter, “Never Forget Who Pays the Bills.”)
Anyhoo, I admit it—I decided to get into it. I said, “I’m sorry, do you not want to be at work today?”
Yep, I really did say that.
He turned, responded defensively with, “Where is this coming from?” and went on to inform me that he’d been “doing something else” and I had “interrupted him.”
Question: When is a customer an inconvenience?
I bought the Auto Zone battery because I really needed it. But, as I left the store, I had two thoughts:
This guy is the manager???
Wonder how I might reach their District Manager.
An hour later, I was on the phone sharing my experience with the Auto Zone district manager. He handled it well. Outstandingly, in fact. I was impressed.
The next day, though, I needed more auto stuff so I voted with my Tacoma and drove an extra eight miles to shop O’ Reilly’s, NAPA, and Advance Auto Parts.
You see, like almost every customer in the world—I. Have. Options.
The Cultural Problem
I made this statement when talking with the DM: “I expect your store manager will blame me.”
Without hesitating, he said, “They always do. The circumstances change, but they always blame the customer.”
Well, then, that’s a cultural problem—and one that can be fixed. I’m thinking Auto Zone, by all accounts, a fine organization, could benefit from some “Personal Accountability and the QBQ!” training. Anyone know their CEO? 🙂
Do you agree that customers see an organization through the person they’re interacting with at that moment?
In what situation have you seen someone blame the customer?
Is it “all about the customer” in your organization?
Share a thought or two below!