Resourced Leaders

'Resourced Leaders' is a premier Australian based Leadership Performance organisation that specialises in working with senior executives, leaders and high performing individuals who aspire to greater levels of personal leadership and success.

Play it again, Sam!

Posted by Phil Owens
Phil Owens
Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He
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on Tuesday, 07 February 2012 in Leadership

Here is a precautionary tale of how not to treat your customers, along with some ‘suggestions’ of where some coaching interventions could make a difference.

This story is true, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent/ignorant.

Colin bought himself a near-new demonstrator car from a well-known local dealer. He dealt with Sam the salesman, and was really happy with the experience. Soon after the purchase, a strange noise emerged from the front of the car.

On the third attempt to get the problem rectified, Colin had the following experience:Steve in service, after failing (for the third time) to identify and fix the problem told Colin "These sports gear boxes are known to be noisier". Colin didn't believe this and rang three other dealers and a mechanic mate. Finding out it was in fact not true, Colin felt he has been lied to and was very upset.

Calming down, Colin then goes to pick up his car after four days of waiting for them to call, and notices damage to one of the doors.

Steve says "Not our problem, nothing we can do". Dismayed, Colin asks to see Steve’s boss, Larry.Larry sits in his big chair, and leans back "Col, I spoke to my boss about it yesterday, and we are not going to do anything about it". Colin is surprised, telling Larry "I only noticed it fifteen minutes ago. When were you going to tell me?" Larry’s response "Are you calling me a LIAR!", standing up, leaning over Colin. "Get a lawyer if you like but we ain’t gunna fix it!"

Colin felt belittled, bullied, threatened and abused. 

After some coaching on how to proceed, Colin went back and spoke to Oscar the owner and outlined calmly what had happened. Oscar appeared shaken, agreed to investigate and promised to call the next day with a response.

5:15pm the next day, no call from Oscar. Colin rings to speak to Oscar…and is put through to Sam. Sam is blunt. "We will repair your car and fix the door", he says. Colin asks if they understand how he has been treated. Sam’s response: "What more do you want? We said we would fix it, didn’t we?"

It seems incredible, but it is true. It reminds me of the expression ‘No customer service = no customers’. Colin has many friends and they all know about this dealership and its ‘customer experience’. With social networking, the experience has been shared around the world.

If I was ‘coaching’ the leadership team, how would I have suggested that they ‘play it again, Sam’?

1. The first lesson of business – the customer may not always be right, but they have the right to express how they feel and be respected for their point of view.   2. The positive experience in the sales room is the start of customer lifetime value, not the end. Understand the full lifetime value of a sale and where this comes from in your business.   3. If you don’t know, don’t make it up. Making up the story about the gearbox being noisy was not authentic and decreased trust. Instead, authentically commit to solving the customer’s problem, and by doing so, learn about problem gearboxes for the next time one comes through the door.   4. Larry’s behaviour toward a customer was inexcusable. It was more a projection of his own insecurities than a reflection on the situation with Colin. Larry would be well advised to work with someone on his defensive reactions and approach to dealing with others.   5. Oscar should have ‘stepped up to the plate’ and followed through on his promise to call Colin. He should have fallen on his sword, offered a heartfelt apology, and used the opportunity to repair the relationship and win Colin over as a customer for life. He should also use this situation as a trigger to review his customer service processes and principles and improve how his organisation does business.

This unbelievable story is a real ‘how not to’ of business. In these times, how long can a business survive behaving like this?

Have you ever had a ‘customer experience’ that was beyond belief?

What did you do and what did you learn from it?

Do you wish you had the chance to 'play it again, Sam' with a customer of yours?

I’d love to hear your experiences.Stay resourceful,


Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He honed his skills working with executives and leaders around the world, coaching and consulting in over 30 countries, from entrepreneurial start-ups to boards of multi-billion dollar businesses.


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