Good Customer Service

Good Customer Service, on the other hand…

Is rather common, really. We live in a service economy, and for most of us I suspect that good customer service is often not as hailed with shouts of joy as it should be. 

I am used to friendly and helpful people at my local Safeway store, but I do not comment on it. Most of the stores I shop at have people who are polite and informed, and I don’t think that is unusual.

But there are some who go above and beyond what is expected, and they deserve praise. Do you have business contacts in your life you should be more appreciative of?

We have a yard service fellow who comes by our home about once every other year and creates, with a small crew, truly astonishing improvements to our yard and shrubbery and planting errors.  We do make a bit of a fuss with him, in terms of my wife drastically over-paying him.  That is probably the finest form of thanks for great service.  Words are fine, but money talks!

My best example of customer service is, to my sorrow, no longer with us.  I met Marty in 1989 when he was a mechanic at a Corvette shop, and the head wrench on a pretty serious Trans Am Corvette racing effort.  I spent a few evenings “working” with him. He was doing the real work, while I performed exotic tasks like – wash the wheels.  The high point of my efforts was the evening where I spent about an hour on the grinder with a small piece of metal shaped like a sand clock.  It was a piece that would be welded in between two of the exhaust pipes on the custom headers Marty was creating.  Later I asked the shop owner/driver to never crash the car on the left side – because that was where “my” part was.

Marty eventually grew exasperated with the mood swings of the owner, and struck out on his own.  He developed a good business working on hot rods, classic Corvettes, and other forms of cool stuff.  I took my business to him whenever I could.  Just walking through the shop was a treat.  Sometimes I would drop by just to chat, and he and his lovely wife (who ran the shop) said they enjoyed my various stories.

However, there was a problem. Most of the time the work I needed had to do with the 1973 AMC Concours sedan that I had purchased for my children to drive. This was far from the mean for the value of the cars in his shop, and Marty did not really want to advertise that he could work on such gray porridge.  When something was needed, I would park the car on his lot and drop a note of what was needed through the slot in the door, along with the key.  The next morning Marty would get the car into the shop and out again as rapidly as possible, so his customers would not see him working on it!  My car was always done in the minimum amount of time.   When done, he would park it outside with the key on top of the left front tire, and I would pick it up at my convenience.  A couple of days later I would drop by to pay the bill.

As a twist, and because of our shared sense of humor, he would also, each time, fix something wrong with the car that either I did not know about or had not asked to be repaired. He would take care of the problem, and not tell me or bill me for the work.  Then he would wait in delight until I figured it out!

At one point I was having trouble with the door handles. They were made of cast pot metal, and various pieces would break. I would cannibalize here and there until I reached a point where the driver’s door was the only one that would open from the outside.  Marty fixed whatever I had requested, and then parked the car with the driver’s door parked up against a fence. When I came by to pick up the car I was so dismayed, until I got the joke. He had fixed all four door handles.

In later years, our Honda CR-V developed a habit of snuffing out the right front headlight. It was held in by a tricky clip that had to be twisted the correct way with your arm and hand bent in three ways.  I could not do it.  We developed a system where I would purchase a new bulb, and he would replace it in 5 minutes.  There was no bill for this service. but I insisted on providing a 6 pack of high quality beer.

He passed away from a massive heart attack two years ago and I do so miss his laughter.

Price Brothers is a repair facility in Totem Lake, and with Marty’s passing I needed a “go to” for any service I was not going to have done by a dealer or do myself. My in-laws had been using them for years and thought highly of them. After father-in-law John passed away, Dorine would go to them for oil changes and any of the other minimal needs for her Ford Taurus. I was so impressed with them, because Dorine was the poster child for a person to be taken advantage of.  They could have told her that the “frammus bifurcation actuation valve” was defective, and she would have paid the bill for the replacement of a non-existent part in utter ignorance.  Being a nosy sort, I kept track of when she took her car in and for what work, and they never did more than necessary.  The bills seemed utterly reasonable.  On one occasion, she showed up with some problem that was serious enough that the car needed to stay there.  We were not available by phone for whatever reason, and she faced a long walk home or the confusion of ordering a cab, which is not easy when you are over 85 years old and have never done that.  Uber?  I don’t think so.   So what did Price Brothers do?  Someone put down their tools and drove her home!   That is customer service.

I now go to Price Brothers for work.

My last example of customer service is more in the nature of marketing.  I have had all the service work on my last two personally owned motorcycles done by (now) Triumph of Seattle.  When I retired in 2013 I took the Speed Triple I owned at that time, which had pretty much not been ridden for three years while I had a “company” bike from another manufacturer, and had them go through the Speed Triple from front to back and replace the tires, change the oil, take care of a niggling electric issue or two, and so on. It was a long list, and I knew it would be expensive.  When I went to pick it up the bill was less than predicted.  It has been that way every time since. I think they create a “worst case” estimate, which the customer signs off on, and then charge for what was actually done.  I don’t think most dealerships do that. Could be because I worked for them at one time and pretty much know the entire staff, but my guess is that this is standard practice. And a good practice it is as well.

Guess what dealership I recommend to everyone who asks?

Good customer service does exist. Do take the time to be aware of it and appreciative. 


Copyright 2017                        David Preston



About david

I am a 69 year old motorsports nut who lives in Bothell, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I have been married forever and have two grown children. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Bonneville T 120 , a Triumph Thruxton, a Fiat 500S and a VW Tiguan. What else would you like to know?
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