You visit your favorite auto repair place. You have been going to the same place for almost 5 years now. Service is always good, prices are reasonable, and they have your car back before you notice it’s gone.

James ( your friends best friend)  isn’t there.  Instead there is this guy who looks like he could use a shave. You tell him what is wrong with you car, this time it simply needs an oil change.

You get one every 3000 miles like clockwork. Spare no expense for your only mode of transportation. They take your car keys, phone number, and address, and tell you it will be ready in about an hour. Sounds great, you go to lunch and plan to go back in an hour.

An hour later, it looks like you car hasn’t moved an inch. It’s in the very same place you left it. Maybe they just moved it back to the same spot. You walk in and there is nobody there. You wait a bit, being PATIENT. You can see the service guys working, or doing something. You see them, but they obviously don’t see you.

Somebody finally shows up, and you ask if your car is done. The guy responds “That car?” as he points to yours.” Yes, that car.” you proclaim. ” Oh, we haven’t got to that one yet.”

You would like an answer at this point. You’ve waited your hour. You waited a bit more for someone to actually come in and help you. Now almost 80 minutes have passed. You are now late for work. Your lunch break is over. You have an important conference call that you just cant miss.

Now what?

The service guy tell you they can do your car right now. You are already late but you don’t want to drive without your oil change. You have already waited an hour, what is 15 more minutes anyway. So you decide to wait.

I guess right now means different things to different people. You assumed right now actually mean RIGHT now, not right 15 minutes from now. You stare at your car as it sits. You are tempted to just ask for the oil and you will do it yourself. May actually be faster…….

2 hours later they are finally done with your car. You are upset and have never been so disappointed at an oil change. You pay and race off the lot vowing never to return! It shouldn’t take 2 hours for an oil change. If they couldn’t do it, they should have said so, and you could have went elsewhere.

Years of good service sunk with one bad experience. You have been a loyal customer for over 5 years. Always good, always fast, but now you have the feeling that you were mistreated. They didn’t deliver on their promise. They didn’t get your old change done in an hour. You think about that last experience and it overshadows 5 years of good experiences. You even recommend people to that place. Not anymore, you are never going back.

Months later, you have taken your car repair business elsewhere. You still remember that day. The day when it all ended. The oil change from hell. You have been stewing over that oil change for almost a year. Your friend of a friend’s company has lost your business forever, and the owners probably don’t even know why. They actually have no idea about your experience because you didn’t tell them. You didn’t stop in at a later date to talk to James and let him know what happened. You didn’t send an anonymous email letting them know of the horrible experience you had. You didn’t use a comment card. You let a 5 year relationship die, and nobody knows why but you.

The bigger a company gets, the more employee’s they hire, the worse the service seems to get. Each and every employee isn’t as friendly, isn’t as charming, isn’t as good of an explainer as the owner. Management tries to train their employees on good (great) customer service, but it is harder than it looks. With hundreds of customer contacts a week, sometimes things fall through the cracks.

As a business owner, the worst thing I can think of is losing a long term customer to one bad experience. Especially an experience that I didn’t hear about. An experience I didn’t get the chance to make up to you.

Recent survey’s say that for every 1 complaint, treat it as 10 more.

People almost expect bad service. Consumers don’t complain as much anymore. They think, this is just the way it is, and they take their business elsewhere. Knowing this, I try hard to remember not only complain when something is wrong, but to complement when something is good. I know it’s hard, but managers need to know when their employees do a good job, as much as when they do a bad job. Then we can promote the good ones to set an example for the bad not so good ones. It also takes time to properly train employees in good customer service. We have to give them a chance to improve and not just say, so and so complained, so your fired.

It takes a few complaints to get someone fired. So keep complaining. If the same person who gave you bad service before is still there, give them a chance. Clean slate. If they mess up again, let the manager know again.

No manager or business owner should let an employee ruin their companies good name. The good name they worked hard to build. The relationship they built with you. Don’t stew, take action. Let someone know about your experience. They will be more grateful than upset.

If they are upset, then maybe you should take your business elsewhere…..