Here are another two stories about the importance of good customer service.

I’m heading back to Illinois to move the last of my mother’s furniture from her newly sold house to her new place in Ohio.

We were searching online for moving van/truck rentals and price estimates. One place we looked was Penske.com. The next day we received an email from Penske, following up on our inquiry and asking why we hadn’t booked with them. The email gave us a toll-free phone number and a promise of a discount.

I called them back and the customer care rep helped me make the reservation. Gave me the discount from the email, and a Web discount, checked on the return location, confirmed times and the whole lot. In all we saved over $175 over the competitor’s best rate.

Now, compare this with the tale of my Physical Therapist. She went to the local Eugene Honda dealer to buy a new hybrid sedan. She was a loyal Honda customer coming back for another car. The salesman she was dealing with showed her the car. The color was not even close to the one she’d ordered. After badgering her a bit he walked off to do some other business.

While she waited, thinking he was going to return, another salesman harangued her with “You’re only buying the hybrid for the gas mileage. What does it matter what color it is?”

Hey, even the car company founded by Henry Ford (of “you can have any color you want as long as it is black” fame) realized early on that customers wanted cars with colored paint, and they wanted the color they liked.

Well, my Physical Therapist was so angry at her treatment that she chose to drive an hour to Salem to a different Honda dealership to buy a car in a color she liked.

Here we see again the difference that customer service can make to your business. In one case we have a good program that followed up a contact, and with a friendly and knowledgeable phone representative, clinched a sale for the company.

In the second case the badgering, condescending, and dismissive sales staff lost what started out as a sure deal of $25,000+. Now, maybe $25K is a throwaway deal to these guys, but many businesses can’t afford to cavalierly lose returning customers.

Steve Lange
Palo Alto Software, Inc.

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