TRICKLE DOWN

Bad Customer Service Hurts Everyone



East Coast Auto Salvage's Taia Cesana's brush with bad customer service reaffirms her theory that a positive attitude starts at the top.

PHOTO: UNIQUELYYOURSPHOTO.COM

Imagine you are looking for an expensive and hard-to-find auto part for a good customer. None are available within the network of salvage yards you normally call so you reach out across the country, calling yards you think would be good based upon their affiliation with trade groups and industry visibility. After a few calls, you finally get a business that has the part.

But, the first thing the salesperson tells you is, "I'd rather be dragged across broken glass than ship this part out to you." "Excuse me?" you answer, positive you misheard. And then he repeats himself, "I'd rather be dragged across broken glass than ship this part out to you."

Well, incredibly enough, this happened to me the other day and when I hung up the phone, I was terrified. I use the word terrified without exaggeration because, as someone who is building a career running a salvage yard (East Coast Auto Salvage, Inc. in Higganum, Conn.), it occurred to me that the poor attitude of this salesperson is not just a reflection of the management of the yard, in the bigger picture, that attitude is giving our industry a bad reputation. That is very bad news for the future of my business.

You may wonder why I am so concerned about the poor customer service at someone else's yard, but as I see it, when a potential customer uses a parts-locating service and receives horrible service first from another yard, they might not pick up the phone again to call me. The customer is going to call the competition. As you know, the competition isn't necessarily the yard up the street, but the professional retailer that is going to get the customer the part they need without the hassle and bad attitude.

Unfortunately this is not the first time I have asked why so many salespeople in this industry have such a bad attitude. I realize salespeople's attitudes are probably a reflection of the management or owner's overall attitude about the business. I don't understand why owners invest so much time and money improving their operations, joining trade groups and advertising, but have created so many rules about what they won't do for their customers. At the end of the day, they are not selling any more parts.

I am well aware of the problems associated with selling certain types of parts and have dealt with many issues in my relatively few years in the industry. One thing I have learned is my attitude as a manager when dealing with these problems affects how my salespeople perform. If I can create an environment of problem solving and positivity, then my salespeople will follow suit. We try to create policies to help our salespeople sell parts successfully and in doing so have instilled an overall positive attitude about the process.

As a yard owner or manager what is your attitude about selling parts? Have you created rules for your salespeople to prevent them from selling or have you created solutions to make selling parts work? Understand that the attitude you have affects your entire operation and possibly how people view our industry. Remember the attitude starts at the top and trickles down.

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