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Here, take my car.

The week before Christmas, I brought my car in for maintenance. The dealership offers both a waiting area as well as a shuttle service to take you to local destinations while your vehicle is being serviced.

While leaving my keys with the service department, I inquired about the shuttle driver and learned that he was off site and would return in the next 10-15 minutes. I then asked the rep if he’d have the driver locate me in the waiting area upon his return in order for me to run a local errand while my car was being serviced.

The rep agreed, made note of my name and cell phone number, and assured me that it would be no more than 15 minutes.

So far, so good.

While I was sitting in the waiting area, a client called. I took the call and moved to a quiet corner of the waiting area to talk.

Within five minutes or so, the shuttle driver appeared and called out my name. I motioned to the driver that I was on the phone and would be a few minutes.

The driver left the area, returning a few minutes later.

As I was listening to my client and taking notes in my planner, the driver walked towards me, pointed to his watch, motioned for me to wind things up and said, “I’ve got places to go.”

Stunned by his actions, I instructed him not to wait on me and that I would just take the next available shuttle. Clearly annoyed, he let out an audible sigh, turned, and walked away.

Think about the irony of this situation: Because I’m making myself available to serve a client over the phone, I’m reinforcing his decision to hire me. Because he hires (and compensates) me, I can afford to have my vehicle serviced at the dealership. Because I’m servicing my vehicle at the dealership, there’s a need for a shuttle driver. And because there’s a need for a shuttle driver, this employee has a job.

After my call ended, I approached the dealership’s general manager and we sat together briefly in his office.

I shared what had happened, recognizing my contribution to the misunderstanding. I realize that conflict doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Conflict is the result of a failure to meet expectations—and I clearly did not meet the shuttle driver’s expectations. After all, I had requested the shuttle service and then wasn’t available when the driver returned. I get that.

Even so, I told the GM that the driver’s behavior made me feel devalued as a customer. His dealership spends a lot of money to evoke certain feelings from its customers and I’m certain ‘devalued’ isn’t one of them.

What the GM did next cemented my loyalty to his dealership and the Cadillac brand.

He said, “Here, take my car” as he handed me the key to a white CTS in the parking lot.

As we walked from his office to the showroom, he apologized on behalf of the shuttle driver, thanked me for my business and said, “Take as long as you need. I’m here until 7 o’clock.”

Misunderstandings are inevitable. How employees respond to them, however, is optional.

Those employees who truly value customers, seek understanding, and give customers the benefit of the doubt (or, in some cases, the keys to their car), are one step closer to resolving misunderstandings—and creating loyal customers.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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