#571 – Dick Bernard: Customer Service
Monday my wife and I were enroute “between here and there” and I suggested we stop in at Maplewood Toyota as we might be in the market for another car.
The stop was a logical one: we’ve purchased four cars there, the most recent one 7 years ago, all from the same salesman who’s very easy to work with.
We parked and got out of the car and saw a man crossing the street. He gave a friendly greeting. He was in front of us, and saw we were heading towards the same door he was entering, so he held it open for us.
Cathy said we were there to look at a car, and were looking for Tim. It turned out that Tim was the one who had just held open the door for us. He didn’t recognize us, and we didn’t recognize him. It had been, after all, seven years, and we don’t hang around auto dealerships as a matter of course.
We laughed about it, did our looking, and I told him that if we were to buy a car, it would be from him. And we went on our way.
But I got to thinking about this routine but extraordinary act of customer service, without any notion of who we were or why were there. It was simply Tim Ehlenz being Tim Ehlenz. And by the way he was selling himself, he’d made a sale without selling anything. He was being with us as he’d be with anyone coming in from off the street.
One never knows who the “customer” is, or when he or she will show up on your doorstep.
We are no longer an isolated world where you all live in the same little town and know everyone.
I did a little piece about that just a few days ago: about Montrose SD.
Nowadays our community is much larger, and we’re at risk if we don’t recognize that reality.
A couple of years ago I had occasion to write specific letters to a number of legislators, only one of which was “my” legislator. Each of them happened to be on a committee dealing with a particular policy issue in which I had a specific interest. I went to each legislators website and in several instances found a “welcome” note that basically said, in different words: “if you’re not from my legislative district, don’t bother me with your prattle cuz I won’t answer your e-mail.”
It wasn’t much of a welcome. For all they knew (nothing, since they didn’t even look at my letter), I could have been helpful, or damaging to them in many ways. Maybe a friend or one of my kids lived in their district, and I would pass on good news, or bad, about them…
Further back, in April of 1999, I remember a very similar happening under completely different circumstances.
I had been driving home from a meeting and heard the first radio announcements of something bad that had happened in Littleton CO – a shooting at the high school.
My son and family lived in Littleton, and had the natural need of a parent and grandparent to know if everyone was all right.
As the information began to come in about Columbine, I came to know that the school was only a mile from where my family lived, and Tom felt he had probably seen the two perpetrators the day before in a local McDonald’s.
The day after the carnage at Columbine, I happened to be in a learning session with about a dozen colleagues, all of whom were school public relations professionals in Minnesota school districts.
We were talking about Littleton, and somebody said, “I’m sure glad that isn’t my district right now”.
I said, “my granddaughter lives only a mile from that school”.
The tenor of the conversation changed completely in an instant.
It hadn’t occurred to anyone that our world is indeed a village without borders, and that just because the carnage hadn’t happened in any of our districts, didn’t mean that people in our districts were not affected.
Customer service is always, every day.
Regardless of what you’re selling….
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