Customer Experience Lessons From Two Auto Parts Stores- Part 1

batteryOne nice thing about having an old car is that it gives me no shortage of customer service experiences to write about.  On my way to work yesterday, my battery light was on and the windshield wipers were moving like molasses.  Definitely no fun in the rain.  This seemed uncharacteristic of a battery but just for kicks, I stopped at the auto parts store on my way to work.  I have visited this store in the past and after standing there at the counter for 5 minutes, walked out because I couldn’t get any help.  I was hoping for better results on this visit. While they were friendly enough, here’s what they did wrong:

Do you want to change the battery here? I opted to save myself the $20 core charge and change my battery at the store but told him I didn’t have tools with me.  The employee pulled out a greasy oil pan with a hodgepodge of tools and said, “I’m not sure you’ll find what you need because people don’t put tools back.”  Luckily I found a couple greasy wrenches to do the trick.

Lesson #1: Don’t offer something to your customers if you immediately have to apologize for it.

He’ll call back. A customer called while the guy at the front desk was helping me.  He was quickly placed on hold.  After about five minutes one of the employees said “Well, he hung up.  He’ll call back.  He always calls back.”  Apparently that was a notorious customer.

Lesson #2: Customers are watching how you treat the other customers that are present.  Never, ever talk badly about them.

Lots of negativity. I’m kind of a sensitive person and I got a negative vibe from the guys behind the counter.  It was never directed at me but toward whatever they were working on.

Lesson #3: Customers can sense negativity especially when it has infiltrated the culture of a company.  Remember that people will associate good or bad feelings with your business and that will affect their decision to return.

Can I get a paper towel? After changing my battery I returned the tools and asked another employee if they had a paper towel or something to wipe my greasy hands.  He grunted and walked very slowly to the back.  I responded with a “Screw it” and walked out and used the hose in front of the store to rinse my hands.

Lesson #4: If a customer asks for something, acknowledge their request clearly and politely and then show a healthy level of urgency to solve the problem.

Isn’t it amazing when a store lives up to the negative first impression they gave you when you dare to return?  In my next post, I’ll tell you why I loyally shop at the O’Reilly Auto Parts by my house.  Oh and thanks for asking about my car.  It wasn’t the battery, it’s the alternator.  Yay!

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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