How many times in your average day do you get treated really well as a customer? When was the last time you went into a bank and they greeted you as though you were the most important person on the planet? When did you last call a power or phone company and get off the phone feeling like they really valued you as a customer. Can you remember the last time you left a shop and felt that the person who served you listened to you, understood your needs, did everything they could to help you, showed that they really liked you will remember you next time you visit.

We’ve all got a negative customer care story that we delight in telling people and we spread the word about how badly XYZ company treats their customers. I could fill the next 10 SHACK ATTACK’s recounting the poor experiences I’ve had with customer care but I’ve decided that it’s better to focus on the good rather than the bad. When we teach our children how to behave we are told to ignore the behaviour we don’t like and praise the child when we see the behaviour we’re looking for. Perhaps that’s a good idea with customer care too.

I recently went to get a puncture fixed and when I collected the tyre I asked the attendant how much it would cost me. His reply almost had me sitting on the floor, he said “Nothing sir, that’s our new policy.” Not only was I pleasantly surprised about not having to pay the $15 or $20 but I was amazed at how our subsequent conversation affected my mood.

I told this guy how great it was that his company had decided not to charge for fixing a punctures and he explained the company stand point. “If we charged you to fix the puncture then we would make a few dollars but if we don’t then you’ll probably remember us next time you need a new set of tyres for your car.” He then spent some time talking to me about what I felt I needed in a tyre company, what type of car I drove and what type of tyres I used. He asked me how I found the service I received form him and his staff and how I felt it could be improved and he finished off by giving me some discount vouchers off my next purchase (even though I’d spent no money with him). As I drove out of the garage I turned around to take a good look as I realised that I didn’t even know which company it was that I’d been using! When I discovered the flat I’d just thought to my self “where can I get a puncture fixed? Oh yes there’s that place next to the Toyota garage” . My conversation with that employee was so positive and uplifting that I’m really happy to tell you that he worked for Firestone Direct .

When I think about their approach it makes excellent sense. To renew the tyres on my car will cost me around $1000, and when I need to do it, I don’t usually spend much time thinking about where I should go, I usually go somewhere that’s convenient, to a company that’s got a special offer on at that time, which from the TV advertising I watch, appears to be most of them! I’m absolutely certain where I’ll go next time I need some new tyres. Now you could say that’s because I was given something for free, but I think it’s much more than that. I think that the guy I spoke to showed me an attitude of real customer care. He spent loads of time making sure I felt important and without actually saying the words, told me how much that company valued my future business.

In my late 20′s I used to train people in customer care and back then I used to believe that in order for people to give great customer service, they needed to have good communication skills and understand how to use sales techniques. However we all know that being nice to customers is an attitude which involves a mind set rather than techniques. I’m sure that the tyre technician I spoke wasn’t the world’s greatest salesman and he may even have not fully understood what he was doing but he certainly had the right attitude towards customer care and I’ll make a point of calling his boss and telling him what a great job he did.

He had what I call a self employed mentality, even though he was obviously an employee of the company he acted as though he was self employed. When I first became self employed 25 years ago I quickly realised that if I wasn’t nice to customers and didn’t give them what they wanted then they wouldn’t pay me which meant that I didn’t get to eat! Previously as an employee I hadn’t come to that same conclusion and I didn’t always have the right attitude. Funnily enough I’ve met some self employed people who don’t display this mentality and give off the attitude that I should be grateful to be a customer of theirs. These people always seem to delight in telling me how good they are at what they do and sometimes they even suggest that it’s my fault that things have gone wrong! So just being self employed doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be giving good customer care, but I think the self employed mentality is a great way of describing the necessary attitude. So let me finish off by asking you how often do you have a self employed mentality?