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What Happened to the Good Old Days of Excellent Customer Service? And the Power of a Referral?

By July 11, 2018March 28th, 2021No Comments
cartoon showing disregard for customer service with the boss holding the lever to open the trap door to drop the customer service department director into the abyss, black and white with caption "Roger, customer service is a thing of the past."

“Tom, Would You Like to Help this Gentleman?” with gentleman referring to me. Can you believe, “Not Really,” was his response. The story below…


My wife recently bought a brand new car. Repeat. Brand new car. A month later, not one telephone call thanking her for her business. Not one telephone call asking her about her experience with the team and dealer. And most importantly, not one telephone call asking her how much she is loving her car. In the greater metro area of Washington, DC where we live, there are more than 10 dealers offering the very same car. To us, this “lack of” customer service meant we were/she was simply a dollar sign.

Do you think we will refer friends to the salesman? Nope.


Recently, our beloved oven died and passed on to appliance heaven. In our general area, we have more than a dozen stores offering appliances. After doing some initial research, my wife and I visited one store, which ended up having the exact model we wanted. The salesman, let’s call him Chris, was friendly and knowledgeable, walking us through the various attributes of the oven. We took his card and said our good byes. He figured he would never see us again, right?

We did some additional research on the model and comparison shopped. We decided to purchase the oven from Chris, especially since he spent the most time with us. I called Chris on the telephone to inquire as to his hours and that I wanted to purchase the oven. Not a “thank you,” not a “excited to have you come in,” not a “what time works best for you?”  Simply, he shared his hours. We arrived on time, reminded him of whom we were and the oven we wanted to purchase. Same lack luster customer service experience. On the way home in our car, we were second guessing our purchase.

Fast forward to a month after installation (which went smoothly). Not one telephone call or email. Not one.

Do you think we will refer friends to the salesman? Nope.

Part 3:  A New Floor

When we renovated our basement, I had to hunt for some matching wood floor pieces to extend an area. After calling a few different stores, I finally found one that had our exact floor pieces. I spoke to a helpful and friendly sales person, let’s call him Dave.

Because of Dave, I drove nearly an hour to the store when I could have just as easily drove closer to home. Now, Dave did not know I was going to visit his store. When I arrived, I asked for Dave and discovered he was on an appointment and would return tomorrow. I asked the man there if he could help me and he insisted that only Dave could help. This was not rocket science after all.

“Is there no one else available?” I implored. “I just drove an hour,” I added.

Just then, down the stairs, walking quickly, came Tom. The man, trying to grab his attention, says to him, right as his hand is on the door knob to exit, “Tom, would you like to help this gentleman?” referring to me.

Tom looks at me and says, “Not really,” opens the door, then hesitates. Realizing his customer service faux pas, turns back to me, with a slightly red face, and says, “What can I help you with?”

I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I’m not doing business with someone who says that to me.” I walked out and never looked back.

How in the world does a company stay in business with employees like that? I’d be curious to know if Tom was one of the owners…


What happened to the good ol’ days of excellent customer service and the implicit power of a referral?

I know you have at least one, if not many examples of poor customer service, which translate to both a “no” for a referral and “heck no, I’m not buying from them” position.

Has technology deadened our good sense such that a personal touch is unnecessary or not even thought of? I have some of these very issues with my students who insist a text message is a good way to send a thank you note after a job interview. I sincerely hope that is never the case…


Photography Source:  Deposit Photos with changes and caption © Copyright 2018, The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.