4 lessons from The Helpful Mechanic: a true story


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The “check engine” light turned on just as the woman was about to get onto the freeway. “Well, I’m close enough to town, I might as well go back,” she said, hoping her mechanic would be able to take a look at it that afternoon.

She pulled into the mechanic’s garage only to be greeted by an empty parking lot and a note posted on the door. Disappointed, but curious, she got out to read the note. It simply read: “I will be out of town this afternoon. But if you need me I can be reached on my cell phone,” and it left his name and a number.

She grabbed her phone and called the number. When she got through to him, he reiterated he was going out of town, but asked her a few questions about how the car was running. After some discussion back and forth, he asked, “Where are you now?”

“I’ve just pulled into your parking lot, and I read your note.”

“Funny,” he said, “I’m just pulling in, too.”

After he gave the car a quick diagnosis, he let her know that it appeared a gas indicator gauge was slightly faulty, but then it shouldn’t be a big issue; she could have it replaced when she got back. He was able to turn the warning light off for now, but only if she promised to bring the car back in on Monday.

He asked how far she was going, and she mentioned she was heading into the city. “What a coincidence,” he said, “I am too. Keep my number handy in case anything comes up while you’re there.”

Reassured and ecstatic she had found such a concerned individual to be her mechanic, she headed happily out of town.

This true story illustrates some great customer service points that deserve to be brought out here. How exactly was the mechanic able to ensure that his customers would be happy? He was able to provide personalized service, rare indeed these days, yet ultimately what most customers are looking for when dealing with any type of business. Personalized service was exemplified by the mechanic in the following three points:

  • He provided clear contact info. Even though he knew he was going out of town, he left a note on the door so that anybody showing up would still be able to get a hold of him. If nothing else, at least this way he would be able to keep in touch and be able to get back to people the following Monday if they had serious concerns. Be sure your customers know how to get a hold of you, if needed.
  • He was available right away. Understandably, it was coincidental, but when she called him, he was available right away to look at the car. However, the point is is that he was available. While being available gets more difficult the smaller your organization is, an important facet of satisfying customers is that, whether it’s one person or many, there is always someone available to help a customer in need, even if it is simply to provide information.
  • He offered ongoing service, if needed. He let her know that he would also be in the city, and that if she needed help, he would still be available to help her there. Ongoing service and availability is a key assurance factor for customers that can boost their satisfaction level to let them know that they will be taken care of down the road (so to speak), should any concerns arise with your products or services. Many times, after-the-sale service can be a deal-breaker if it is not there, or not executed correctly.
  • He demonstrated concern with his time. All of these actions pointed to the fact that even though the mechanic had other plans, he was still caring enough to spend a few minutes to ensure one of his customers was taken care of. Most companies just don’t want to spend the time it takes to provide basic services to their customers,and they suffer the consequences. Typically, a few moments is all that’s needed to provide the necessary reassurance and comfort level that customers desire.

By following the example of the helpful mechanic, find ways to leverage systems, processes, and people that can accomplish these levels of personalized service, and you will be more successful in raising the levels of satisfaction among your customer base.

Just for fun…

“When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?, ‘ I say, ‘Your salary.'” – Alfred Hitchcock

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of ThinkCustomerSatisfaction.com, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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