How a Local Merchant Earned My Business


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Our good friends and colleagues Larry Berk and his wife visited us this past weekend. I told him a story about an experience with a local merchant. He couldn’t believe I hadn’t written it up on my blog. You see, when people want to sell me something, they often say they want to “earn” my business. Here’s how a local merchant—a customer service expert—got that job done.

Three years ago, our barbecue grill needed replacement. My wife ordered a new Weber Genesis from points we had accumulated through our American Express account. The grill was delivered just before I left for Ireland on a 15-day business trip.

My wife was very sure to remind me again and again when we spoke during those two weeks that when I returned home I’d have to put the grill together. I’d rather have three teeth pulled than deal with assembling this grill.

When I returned from Dublin, she picked me up at Logan airport for the drive down to the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. Only once during the drive did she mention the arduous task ahead.

When I finally got home and walked out onto the back deck, I immediately saw that the grill had already been assembled. To say I was relieved was an understatement. I was also incredible grateful—my wife threw a grill assembly party in my absence. Eight or so our friends came over and put the thing together. Nice.

The wrinkle in the story was this: there was a part missing. Not a critical part, but a part nevertheless. My wife contacted Weber and they agreed to ship the part and have a local hardware store, a Weber reseller, install it.

When the part arrived, we called that hardware store, one of several here on the island. It is one we rarely visit.

A day later, Jesse, the owner of Shirley’s Hardware in Vineyard Haven showed up with his toolkit, ready to install the part.

Within two minutes, it became clear Jesse was upset about something. He told me that the grill had been assembled incorrectly. Certain parts were misaligned, nuts and bolts used in the wrong places, loose doors, etc. He asked if I minded if he spent some time getting it back in shape. “No problem for me,” I said.

Nearly two hours later, the grill was back together, perfectly assembled, with the new part in place.

I told Jesse I wanted to pay him for his time.

In response, this is what he said. “I can’t stand when these grills aren’t assembled properly. I’m not interested in who did it the wrong way. I just need to make it right. I know you’re not a customer of Shirley’s Hardware. What I’d really like is if you’d bring your business to us. That would mean a lot to me.”

I’ve been a loyal customer ever since.

Bad customer service will inhibit sales success. If you’re interested in reading more about good service, here are some other posts on the subject:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Stein
Dave specializes in helping his clients win critical B2B sales opportunities as well as helping them hire the best sales talent.Dave is co-author of Beyond the Sales Process. He wrote the best-selling How Winners Sell in 2004.


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