Have you ever seen the bathroom sign that says, “We aim to please.  You aim too, please”?

Over the 4th of July of weekend, while traveling with the family, I had a customer service experience worth sharing.

It all began, as so many road trips do, with a pre-departure oil change and tire rotation.  Trying to help the wife, I volunteered to take our three and one-year-old with me so she could finish packing in peace.  We arrive to the service station at 7:50am to an open store – lights on and two senior managers standing behind the desk.

“That’s great you’re open a bit early on such a busy weekend,” I say, assuming it was an intentional and savvy business decision.  Until one of the managers replies, “We always get here early, but the guys don’t start til later…usually whenever they roll in.”  Well 20 minutes later, one of the guys “rolled in” and was told by the manager, within ear-shot of me and several other customers, “You take this one, it’ll give you something to do.”  Gotta love it when the guy who’s late and “needs something to do” gets your job.

After nearly an hour, and no update from the manager, I made my way to the counter – credit card in hand.  No acknowledgement.  Not a “Sorry for the wait, your vehicle is almost finished.”  Not a “Thanks for your patience, let me get you checked out so you can get on your way as soon as the technician is finished.”  Nothing.  So I asked if I could go ahead and pay, did so, and took the kids outside to wait.

Shortly thereafter the technician backs my car out of the bay, sees me and the kids waiting, and takes off around the corner.  Instead of just leaving it out for us to get into, he parks on the adjacent side street.  When he tries to walk past me without a word, I offer a “thank you” and ask if he has the key.  “It’s still in the ignition”, he says, on the other side of the building.  Seriously?

I’m a patient guy and was ready to move on…until I got in the vehicle and was hit by a strong offensive odor.  And the seat and steering wheel were both wet with sweat.  What ever happened to seat covers, dry rags, and personal decency?  All I could think was…ten years of loyalty…down the drain.

This is obviously an extreme case of very bad customer service, but I hear similar stories from others with what seems to be growing regularity.  “It’s hard to find good help” is the common complaint.

While that may be true, it doesn’t mean that people can’t be trained, held to a higher expectation, and taught to take pride in what they do.  I’m aware of a professional services provider who will not hire someone who doesn’t make eye contact and regularly smile.  He knows how powerful these gestures are in developing rapport with customers and earning their trust.  Similarly, I stayed at a hotel recently where the receptionist complimented my shirt and thanked me for my business.  Nice!  The little things go a long way.

Are you a business owner?  Have you stepped back and objectively observed how your team services your customers?  What program do you have in place for setting the standard, communicating your expectations, and modifying unacceptable behavior?

Customer service may be slipping, but customer expectations are not.  This represents a tremendous competitive advantage opportunity to all business owners and their teams who truly aim to please.