So this guy at my Toyota garage made me cry. He had no idea that he did, and he never will. But I’m grateful to him for the experience. “He made you cry and you’re grateful?” I hear you thinking, “How come?” Here’s why.
After decades of driving Renaults, I started driving Toyota and need to find a local dealer to service the car. Living close to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, we have a couple of dealers in the vicinity and, seeing as I’m “service sensitive,” I want to drop in and get a feel of the place before giving them my business. So I drop in. Turn right for sales, turn left for service. I turn left. Announcing my new status as a Toyota driver, I ask the guy behind the counter some general questions so that I can experience how he deals with people. He deals with people well. He answers my dumb questions about how they make appointments and stuff like that, but he does something else that I like. He introduces me to his colleagues behind the counter. Saying that I’ll be always dealing with either him or the other two guys. I say “introduces,” but it was not much more than pointing them out and telling me their names. I believe that I got a brief nod of acknowledgement from one of them; the other one was absorbed in serving another customer. Satisfied with this pleasant exchange, I thanked him and said that I’ll be in touch when the service is due, and made my move to the exit. “So what about the tears?” I hear you thinking. They’re coming; they’re coming.
My car is parked on their premises. It’s a Prius by the way, and I can recommend it. Being hybrid it does clever things while taking you from A to B, adding to the driving experience. I’m parked about 20 meters from the road. I get into the car and drive off. Now this is when it happens, and I must admit that it hit me at an unexpected moment. Maybe I’d had a trying day or week. I believe that it was Friday afternoon. Anyway, my guard was down. Driving slowly past the other parked cars on my left on the way out, I notice a mechanic with his head buried underneath the bonnet (or hood, if you prefer American English) of one of the cars. Have you ever had do to something underneath a car bonnet? Then you know how it feels. You have to contort yourself to get to the part that needs attention, often bruising and dirtying your knuckles in the process. Yet this guy—the guy who made me cry—hearing a car departing, takes the trouble to extract himself from his contortions, turn around and give me a friendly wave. It touched me. It moved me. I shed a tear.
So why should you care about this soppy service sentimentality? Because in a world that is increasingly characterized by dealings with automatons and uncaring anonymous agents, people so much appreciate being treated like human beings. Organizations that realize the value of this, have a significant competitive advantage. Personal recommendations are valuable and I’m a good example: I’ve shared this experience with hundreds of people in workshops and at conferences. They also attract “people people,” making them a more attractive place to work. By the way, the garage is Compier in Amstelveen. They sell Toyota’s. They service Toyota’s. But that’s not the point. Anybody can service cars. Their business is service experience. Not many people do that well. Do you?