In our last blog, I shared a friend’s story of what he called “bewilderingly poor customer service,” that left him wondering why neither the employee nor the manager seemed to know how to fix the problem … or felt empowered to do so.

Today’s story begins in much the same way, with a distracted and self-focused employee creating a customer service problem… before another employee steps in and saves the deal.

Recently, a friend was shopping for a new car. She called ahead to the dealership to let them know she was coming. This person had been a loyal customer of that dealership for more than a decade, buying multiple cars there and taking them in for service regularly. So, she expected a friendly welcome and attentive service.

That’s not what she received… at first. Paula will take it from here…


An Unexpected Welcome

“I arrived at the dealership with an appointment, and a pretty good idea of what I wanted. Unfortunately, the salesperson I initially contacted was tied up in another appointment, so they couldn’t help me right away.

“Another salesperson stepped in to help. From the beginning, they seemed distracted, uninterested. And, when they learned I wasn’t there to purchase one of the higher-end cars on the lot, that disinterest and distraction only increased.

“He answered my questions, without any enthusiasm, and didn’t even offer to take me for a test drive. We looked at a larger, sedan model of a car I was interested in, and I asked if they had a smaller, sport model. What happened next left me absolutely floored. The salesman didn’t even answer me, he just said, ‘I have an appointment, so I have to go…’

That was it. He left me standing there, ready to buy a car, without anyone to help me. I couldn’t believe it.

“Now, remember, I was a long-time customer. A lot of people there knew me, so I thought: ‘If this is how they treat long-time customers, how do they treat tire-kickers?’ Before I could finish that thought, another salesperson appeared in front of me.


A Leader Steps In

“She introduced herself and apologized, saying she witnessed what just happened, and that the other salesperson’s behavior was absolutely unacceptable.

“Her demeanor and approach quickly turned what had been a very disappointing visit into one of the best car-buying experiences I’ve ever had. We didn’t just talk about what I was looking for, we talked about why. After listening to my preferences and habits, she asked some truly insightful questions about why I preferred certain features, models and styles.

We didn’t just talk about what I was looking for, we talked about why.

“Her questions led me to consider a few things I hadn’t thought of before, and she was able to introduce me to a car that fit me even better than the one I originally wanted to look at. We test drove both cars I was considering, and, early on in the third test drive, there was no doubt. This was my new car!”

“That salesperson stuck with me through the rest of the process, making sure I was happy with the service I was receiving every step of the way. I know she had other customers, yet she always found a moment to come check on me, make sure I was doing well.

I know she had other customers, yet she always found a moment to come check on me…

“Then, about a week after I drove off the lot in my new car, she called to see how I was doing. Did I have any questions? Was I still happy with the car? She never asked me to fill out a survey or send a ‘good word’ up to her supervisor … but you bet I did. I actually sent in a Thank You card, addressed to the GM, letting him know that she had saved the sale and helped keep me as a service customer as well. I told him she deserved a bonus.”


All the Difference

“Looking back, that process, from the moment she appeared to my decision to buy that car, took less than an hour. Maybe 45 minutes of that salesperson’s time took me from the edge of leaving – and never coming back – to buying another new car at that dealership.

“One person stepped up. Without being asked, or instructed or expected… she chose to take the initiative, and that made all the difference. There is no doubt in my mind, without her, I would be driving a different make of car from a different dealership.”

One person stepped up. Without being asked, or instructed or expected…

When Paula shared this story with me, I thought about all the other times these opportunities happen around us, and about how many people choose to step up… as well as how many do not, and why they choose not to.

In our next blog, we will look at how to create an environment that encourages employees to lead in ways that make our organizations better at every level.



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