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What I Learned From Running Out Of Gas

Does your business react to customer problems better than Mercedes does? Probably.

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My buddy and I ran out of gas last month on the way to a concert. Yep. That happened. His vehicle happened to be a fancy schmancy Mercedes SUV equipped with all the bells and whistles, including 24/7 roadside assistance. What followed took my perception of Mercedes service from a 10 to a 5.

After my buddy (we’ll call him Frank) hit the roadside help button, an operator came on the line and asked if we were in a safe place. She then asked us where we were. Frank and I looked at each other. Surely she could see the vehicle’s GPS coordinates on her screen? Apparently not. She then launched into a screed about how Frank could benefit from additional Mercedes products and services. We were both getting agitated at this point with our temperatures rising to match the car’s rapidly warming interior. Frank maintained his composure and asked how soon help would arrive. The operator wasn’t sure and gave him another number to call. No warm transfer, no empathy, just a sales pitch.

Also by Henry Clifford: Sharpening Your Edges: What I Learned From Walking The Aisles of Best Buy

Since we had plenty of time to stew in our own juices, Frank and I started talking around a thread that resembled, “So this is the world famous Mercedes service?” After the runaround by the operator and several calls to different towing services, a state highway assistance vehicle rolled up behind us, poured in a gallon of gas, and sent us on our way. We later found out that the Mercedes “rapid” response vehicle would’ve been to us two hours later. Thanks to Virginia’s finest, we were out of pocket for 15 minutes tops. Who would’ve thought the five-star service award went to the state government?

I kept trying to imagine a call like this coming into my integration company, Livewire. Our default mode is to immediately empathize, apologize, and see what we can do to fix the problem. That’s just how we’re wired (like most CEDIA members). It was refreshing to see how well we stack up when compared to a supposedly amazing service business. I feel like we often overlook or take for granted how important five-star service is for our customers (and how well we deliver on that promise), but 15 minutes on the highway set me straight.

As you’re talking with prospective clients, consider asking them what their service expectation is when things go wrong. Do they want after-hours support, the ability to text you, or maybe they’re OK with normal business hours and a 90-day warranty? By surfacing these potential pain points early, it becomes easy to set expectations and pivot into the way your company delivers service and support.

Also by Henry Clifford: Supercharge Revenue By Increasing Your Average Sale

Knowing that our CI businesses are winning the service game everyday when compared to the likes of Mercedes and other large companies trying to scale five-star service should make us all more confident in standing behind our processes, products, pricing, and our people.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.

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