How to Make a Negative Customer Moment Even Worse

It’s 4:00 pm. The phone rings.  I don’t recognize the name on call display, consider not answering but at the last minute, just before it kicks into voice mail, pick up.

Amy’s on the other end of the line.  Her aunt’s car is gone.  It’s been towed and she needs rescuing. Tomorrow morning she leaves home for an entire year.  I’m grateful for one last opportunity to be a hero.

The drive to Osborne Village is short. Amy and her friend are waiting on the street.  I pull into a side street, they run over and hop in the car. We’re on the way to the towing company.  Amy’s hoping the car is there.  When she discovered the car gone, she called Dr. Hook.  Here’s her description of what happened:

“A nice lady answered the phone. When I told her I think my car got towed, she asked me for the licence plate number.  She checked in the computer. They didn’t have it so said she would transfer me to the other Winnipeg towing company.  They weren’t as nice there, mom.  They just said the name of the company really fast and when I asked if they had my car, told me to come to their lot.  I don’t even know if they checked to see if they had it.”

We got to the lot and no, they didn’t have the car.  The person Amy dealt with in person was much more helpful than the person on the phone and suggested we go back to where the car had been towed from as it may have just been moved.  Long story short, after driving around and not finding it, trying to file a police report for a potentially stolen car (that in itself was much more difficult than you would imagine) it turned out the car had been moved … to the other side of Osborne, three streets over and six blocks down.  The towing company without the car in the lot had moved the car.  They provided the police with licence plate information and location on the cars they moved so when people called to report their car stolen, they could be told where it had been moved to.  I’m not sure why that information wasn’t provided to the corporate office.

In the end, it was another great example of how important the person who answers the telephone is for your business reputation.  The person at Dr. Hook started with a pleasant greeting. She asked Amy for information and when she knew they didn’t have her aunt’s car, she knew where to direct Amy’s call.  Unfortunately, that company didn’t manage that customer touch point nearly as well.  The greeting was abrupt.  There was no offer of assistance. Just curt directions on location and in the end, a wasted trip to a lot with no car.

Based on the number of people being dropped of on the same street I dropped Amy off when the car was found, this is a familiar scenario.  What a great opportunity to turn a frustrated customer into, if not a happy customer, at least a slightly grateful customer. The customer knows they messed up and that’s why they were towed.  Compassion, empathy and a solution to their problem will be appreciated.

Oh .. and lesson number two .. don’t park in front of a No Parking sign!


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