July 24, 2012
The driver’s side rear turn signal bulb went out on my Expedition last week, so I stopped by the Ford dealership this morning to have it replaced.
I pulled into the service bay, parked, and went inside to the service counter. There, I met up with a service manager who, after establishing my need, said, “Let me get a star wrench and see if we can’t get you out of here quickly and save you some money on labor.”
“Wow!” I thought, “That’s great customer service!”
He removed the rear lamp assembly and handed me the burned out bulb, asking me to step inside to the parts counter to purchase a new one.
I complied, approached the parts counter, rung the bell for service, and waited. I could hear a man speaking on the phone on the other side of the doorway but, after waiting a full minute, was unsure if he’d heard the bell. Just before I hit the bell a second time, he leaned back into the doorway while tethered to the phone and said, “I’ll be right with you.”
After waiting another three minutes, I noticed a small selection of bulbs on display. I compared the product number of my burned out bulb to those of the new bulbs and found a match. Rather than wait any longer for the parts manager, I decided to return to my vehicle with the new bulb in order to relieve the service manager who was patiently awaiting the replacement bulb.
Within minutes of my return, the service manager had installed the bulb, attached the rear lamp assembly, and thanked me for stopping in.
When I explained to him that the parts manager was unavailable and I had yet to pay for the new bulb, he said, “Just bring it in to the cashier. You can pay for it there.”
I thanked him for his help and proceeded to the cashier. When I arrived, I was greeted with eye contact and a smile. I handed her the packaging for the new bulb containing a price of $2.89 along with a five dollar bill.
Puzzled, she asked, “Do you have a parts ticket?”
I said that I did not, clarifying that I had found the bulb at the product display near the parts counter.
She said, “I need a parts ticket in order to complete the sale.”
I told her that the parts manager was on the phone and I’d prefer not to wait any longer at the parts counter in order to obtain a piece of paper that would allow her to accept my cash payment for a $2.89 light bulb.
To her credit, she suggested that she could speed things up by personally obtaining the parts ticket. Two minutes later, she returned with the completed parts ticket and accepted payment. Next, she date-stamped and signed the ticket and provided me with a copy, finally completing the transaction.
I’ve bought $3,000 worth of computer equipment at the Apple Store in a fraction of the time it took me to buy a $2.89 light bulb at the Ford dealership—and with less paperwork! I’m not asking the dealership to adopt wireless point-of-purchase payment devices (although there’s no reason they couldn’t). But I am suggesting that management reconsiders the hoops customers must go through to purchase a simple $2.89 light bulb.
This story highlights an important truth about exceptional customer service: Protracted, cumbersome processes can undermine the goodwill established by competent, customer-focused employees.
And here’s the irony: Identifying competent, customer-focused employees IS THE HARD PART!