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Do You Suffer From CED? Good News – It’s Curable

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In business, as in life, mistakes WILL happen. How you respond will make the difference in whether your customer will remain loyal and continue to do business with your store. Customer relations are easy as long as things go well – when they don’t, you and your team have the opportunity to shine or look like the proverbial pile of…well, you know. 

Let me underscore this with a recent experience I had at a global coffee chain. I love heading out to the coffee house with my wife, Marlene, to grab a cold brew or blended beverage. While we are hanging out there, we’ll plan trips, discuss an upcoming event – this has been our “date night” routine for many years. 

You see, this chain had pioneered the “third place” experience, where customers and non-customers alike are welcomed to their stores. People could experience some great tunes, meet with friends or business associates, work on homework, read a book, and sip on a tasty beverage. In the post-Covid world though, I worry that the customer experience has suffered. 

We recently endured a visit to our nearby location that gave me pause. From that experience I began to consider our clients’ and your store’s interactions with your customers and the fragile nature of the relationship. I began to recognize the creep of “Customer Experience Decline” (let’s call it CED) that can occur if you take your eyes off the ball, like this coffee chain has.

Back to the coffee house: we ordered two blended beverages and a water, three drinks total. Marlene’s drink and the water came up first, then several minutes went by. After waiting patiently, I decided to head back to the counter, where the staff found creative ways to ignore my presence with world-class ease. Drinks zipped through the blender and were handed off to the drive-through attendant.

I wondered when I would see mine. Perhaps the drink label they affixed to the cup didn’t print, so I bided my time and waited. Finally, my drink was delivered to the counter, where its maker hollered my name. Keep in mind, I was standing right in front of her.

Before she scampered away, I asked, “Could you help me to understand the reason my drink took five minutes longer than my wife’s?” The look on her face was priceless, as though I had asked a question worthy of a Mensa exam! Pausing a moment, she responded, “We are shorthanded,” an answer you hear far too often today. Still, I thought, why did I see eight other drinks processed before mine was delivered? 

I pursued the first question again, with the same answer, this time delivered without a smile. Again, trying to understand, I asked the question a different way. Her next response absolutely floored me: she glared at me as though I’d fallen off a turnip truck, raised her hands to the side of her head, palms up and then just shrugged. Essentially, she communicated nonverbally, “I really don’t care! Here’s your drink, now go away!!”

For a coffee chain that had built its reputation of being a welcoming location, outstanding interactions with their guests and building a sense of community had fallen to a simple act of indifference to a loyal customer’s request. 

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Handling Customer Challenges

How are challenges handled at your store? Does your staff have the same passion to care for your clients that you do? Have you kept an eye on things, one of the many things a parts professional is responsible for on a daily basis? 

Are you aware that, according to a study commissioned by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, 75% of customers leave a business due to apathy, also known as indifference? 

The good news of that staggering figure is that if we can control our behavior and our team, we can eliminate 75% of the reason a customer would stop buying from us! All we need to do is to provide exceptional customer service and experience!

Let’s look at five simple ways you, your counter pros and anyone who interacts with a customer can meet and exceed your customers’ expectations.


You’d be surprised how often we miss the mark. The counter is busy, the phone is ringing, parts drivers need your signature, the computer is slow and the customer is standing in front of you. With all the distractions, how do you make sure things don’t fall through the cracks with the customer? Stay engaged, keep your eyes on them, focus and ask questions. Write or type the information down and, most importantly, review the requests with them before the leave the store.

Don’t rush! I am sure you and they alike would rather wait an extra minute or two so you can make sure all their requests are noted and handled, rather than them showing up to pick the car up and learning that your team missed the oil change or state inspection they needed! 

Be Present

Being present is pretty simple – tune into the customer, whether you’re in-person or on the phone. It’s really off-putting when a person (often the advisor) disengages from a conversation to answer a question coming from the background, or worse, laughs at something that might be out earshot of your customer. 

Ask Questions

This one is even easier. By listening (highlighted in the first bullet point), your team will be armed with the information needed to ask the right follow-up questions. Your customer, your techs and you, as the owner, are all relying on the advisor who is at the tip of the spear to get it right. When we listen, ask the right questions and write the answers down, everyone in the process can participate in ensuring the job is done completely and accurately every time.

Don’t Make Excuses!

Mistakes will happen. If it really is your fault, don’t try to hide behind an excuse or try to give a complicated reason for the issue. Just say, “We made a mistake and we’ll make it right.” Remember to choose your words wisely though, so as not to give away the farm. In most cases, the customer understands that everyone is human, and won’t put the screws to you.

Say I’m Sorry

Remember my coffee shop story? I was literally blown off and figuratively given the middle finger. The likelihood that I’ll grace that store’s doors again is slim at best. 

To be honest, a simple apology for the wait would have sufficed and disarmed my frustration, along with letting me know how valuable my business is. A well placed “I’m sorry” goes a long way.


You have many roles as a counter professional, but it all starts with setting the tone as a leader, training your team on what you expect. Occasionally inspecting their work and consistent review of your store’s culture will go a long way toward ensuring your customers KNOW that YOU care about them, their cars and the experience they receive each time they head to your shop.

Don’t let something as controllable as indifference alienate loyal clientele.

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