Creating Legendary Customer Experiences: A Buick Story
by Frank Swiatek
One of the four fundamentals in our book is to “Keep the Customers You Already Have!” You can do that with exceptional customer service, delivered consistently.
But, here’s a major problem. To deliver exceptional customer service often requires a team effort. If part of the team is not aligned, the customer experience falls apart.
I had an experience with my Buick, which is my signature experience of how an entire team comes together to deliver customer service.
I was doing a series of 5 leadership consultations in the northeast corridor of the United States in about a one-week time frame. I decided it would be easier for me to drive to these sessions than jumping on and off airplanes for a week.
My first session was in Philadelphia over the weekend. It was about 11:15AM on a Friday, the first leg of my trip, when I suddenly realized I was losing power in my car. I had the accelerator down to the floor and I was going 15 miles an hour. I had a problem!
I took a ramp off the highway and parked in a parking lot of a senior citizen center. When I got out of my car I noticed a long trail of a yellow liquid from my car down to the ramp―not good! I immediately called my client and notified them of the situation and grabbed a cab to my meeting.
When I got to me meeting at 12 noon, my contact encouraged me to do whatever I had to do to resolve my issue. So I sat there deciding who to call. I decided to call the person who sold me the car.
I called and said, “Hi Paul, this is Frank Swiatek, and I bought a car from you 2 years ago.” He said, “Yes, of course, I remember.” I said, “Paul, I have a problem!” I described the problem, and he said, “Frank, you don’t have the problem, I have the problem!” Wow, was that refreshing!
He said someone would call me within the hour. The next call came from a district manager of Buick in Philadelphia, who Paul called to describe the situation. The district manager, said to me, “Frank, it must really be unsettling to have car trouble on a Friday, beginning a long business trip. I am going to work on this immediately. Someone will call you shortly.”
It was now about 2:30PM. A little concern started to sneak in. The phone rang, and the voice on the other end said, “Frank, this is Marty and I’m the tow truck guy. Can I meet you at 3:30PM to take your car to the local dealer in downtown Philadelphia?”
Marty was on time. The last place I expected to be at 3:45PM was in a tow truck, with my car chained up, and heading to be repaired.
When we got to the dealership I immediately got discouraged as I looked at all the repair lifts and the waiting room. There were cars on every lift and the waiting room was crowded. I thought to myself, “Three days! That’s what I should plan on for with this repair.”
The service manager greeted me as soon as I stepped out of the tow truck. He said, “Frank, I am going to do what I can, in the next hour (their closing time), to get you back on the road. I should tell you that some of the cars on the lift are not due until next Tuesday, so we can get you on a lift immediately. I’ll put my senior mechanic on it right now. Have a seat in the waiting room.”
At 4:55 PM, the service manager came in to the waiting room with a big smile. He said, “Frank, we found the problem. It was a seal leak. We fixed it and gave it a test ride. Here are your keys. This one is on Buick!”
I was stunned at what happened. I know that you may be thinking that this was special treatment for me, for one reason or another. This is not true.
When I got back to Buffalo, I sent Paul a thank you note. A few days later, I visited with Paul to personally thank him. In his office, on the wall were numerous letters (including mine), thanking him for exceptional service from the Buick team.
I got the feeling that he saw his job as creating “legendary customer experiences.” What a great way to keep the customers that you already have!
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