Sometimes, it’s the smallest aspect of customer service that can make or break an experience — being open late during planting or harvest to help your customer with a part or a breakdown in the field. Customers notice when you are there for them when they are in a pinch. Generally, I’m pretty forgiving of most of my sub-par customer experience interactions with companies. 

But when I’m looking for information or requesting assistance, my customer service expectations are high. While traveling to Missouri earlier this month to visit the folks at Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners for the Dealership of the Year interview, my rental car was broken into in the early hours of the morning. 

Thankfully, nothing was taken from the car. A police report had already been filed, and the police already knew who did it. Next up, I talked to the front desk of the hotel. The manager apologized profusely for the incident and let me know they would be covering my hotel stay and would also be mailing me a voucher for another free night. So far the morning had been rough, but people had been helpful and compassionate. 

As Associate Research Editor Ben Thorpe and I cleaned up the mess, I left a message for Lee Ann Sydenstricker letting her know what had happened but that we were on our way. Meanwhile, I had heard from the rental car location where I had rented the car, who said the local store could get me a replacement car. Great! We were on our way to having this all worked out!  

That’s where the good customer experience ends though. Without dragging the story out too much, I spent over an hour on the phone with the rental car company, at one point even being transferred to the location back here in Wisconsin. Not once, did anyone acknowledge the situation I was in — out of state with a car that could not be driven the nearly 400 miles back home. No one said sorry. No one offered any explanation as to why they had no cars. I did get a lot of people passing the buck though. 

A bad customer experience can spread like wildfire. Anyone who has spoken to me in the last 2 weeks has likely heard about the experience and the story never includes a recommendation to use this company. 

In the Dealership of the Year coverage, SN Partners CEO Ted Briscoe says about a quarter of their revenue comes from selling small tractors. He stresses how that side of the business is a battle every day because about 80-90% of it is truly a retail, transactional sale. Customer experience can make or break this side of the business. 

A friend of mine recently emailed a dealer to inquire about a snowblower attachment for his tractor. He is a potential new customer for this dealer. It took a month for anyone at the dealership to respond to his request. He was about ready to give up on them when he did finally get a response. In the meantime, he had also recommended the dealer to his uncle, based on the brands they carried. 

While the in-store buying experience for his uncle went well, the delivery left his wife fuming. They own horses and the wife takes care of them, so she was going to be using the tractor often. She was the one who took delivery on the tractor. When the guy arrives with it she says, “He wasn’t interested in showing a female how it worked.” She nearly told him to just take it back. 

Customer service is everyone’s job. Not just the person who answers the phone, not just the salesperson. Everyone has the opportunity to make or break the customer’s experience. Make sure your staff is trained to make it a good one.