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Keeping It Simple: It's All About Attitude, Attitude, Attitude


2/23/2011
By Gerald Wheelus

Attitude starts in the morning when we brush or comb our hair and walk out the door.
 
Gerald Wheelus
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

This quote by Henry Ford illustrates attitude and bad attitude beautifully. Ford needs no introduction here. He was a firm believer in the American dream and attitude meant everything to him. He also was a great believer in positive thinking.
We all usually fall into thinking either we can or cannot do something. Most of us (not sure about all) understand the importance of a good attitude. There are thousands of pages written on the subject and how to think and act more positively, so what more could be said, right?

“Nothing” could be the answer but, as with all training and education, we need reinforcement to learn a skill.

Attitude starts in the morning when we brush or comb our hair and walk out the door. The hard part is all the people who get in the way of that attitude. Is it safe to say very few of us want to be negative? Most would say that they certainly do not mean to be negative.

Let’s consider a scenario: a customer gets a set of brake pads. A simple process most of the time, but this time we have a boxed wrong set, and as “professional parts people,” we want to cater to the
customer’s needs.

Because we have a potentially boxed wrong set of brakes, we begin to call one of our other stores in order to compare our Box A pads to the Box B pads to make sure that they match one another. In this case, the lower-priced Box A pads matched the higher-priced Box B pads and that told us we had the correct pads. Since the other stores pads matched it gave us a good indication that the higher-end Box B pads we had on the counter were the correct ones and the Box A lower-end pads were indeed boxed wrong. 

During this process, the customer accuses us of trying to take advantage of him by the old bait-and-switch method, trying to force him into buying the higher-priced parts. What to do? Therein lies our choice of attitudes. The choices we make in the next few seconds after the customer’s attitude rubs us the wrong way are critical. In this case, we have the option to take the high road or the low road, positive or negative. The right way would be to respond with kindness and explain to the customer that we are really not trying to take advantage of the situation and we are trying our best to be sure that we can accommodate their needs.

Also, in this case, the store closest to us is 15 miles away so we can offer a solution:

1) We can go and get them for the customer and be back in about 30 to 45 minutes;

2) Ask the customer to go and get them for themselves;

3) Offer to give the customer the Box B higher-end pads and apologize for the problem.

Some of your possible answers depend on company policy but option 3 might be the easiest and will offer the customer the reassurance that we were not trying to be dishonest with them.

What about when a customer comes in and pays off his charge account in full and declares, “I will not be back.” When asked why, the customer says, “Because I was here right at closing time and you were already closed.”

There are a number of answers we’d like to give, none of which are going to help the situation. They are:

1) “We’ve been here since 7:30 a.m. and we were ready to go so, what were you doing all day that kept you from getting here earlier?”

2) “How come you did not call and tell us you were turning on Highway 80 and were about five miles out?”

3) “When the bank gets ready to close they do not let you in and that is usually about five minutes before closing time.”

4) “Why do we parts people have to be the kicking dogs?”

The above responses are what we’d LIKE to add to the conversation, however, the proper response is to apologize. There’s no shame in saying sorry for the difficulty. Again, some people are so irrevocably self-absorbed that they do not care about our feelings or the fact that we might have a life outside of the store. So, we apologize and move on. In these instances, there are opportunities to show who we really are, for better or for worse. 

Who knows what the perfectly “proper” response is at this point. Maybe the customer had a bad day and is playing “kick the dog.” Maybe they’ve had bad experiences at other parts stores. Maybe their garage door opener died and they’re staring down the barrel of a $1,000 repair bill.

Whatever the reason, there’s a high likelihood you’re not going to know why they’re truly upset. Either way, we have to keep our attitude in check and be the bigger person here. In these instances, whether you’re wrong or not, “sorry” goes a long way. The customer is feeling a sort of “pain” mentally, and there’s an opportunity to relieve it. At this point the appropriate old adage to live by might be, “Don’t argue with and idiot because the people watching may not be able to tell who the idiot really is.” That adage applies here. In our business, someone is always watching us. That includes customers with whom we have good interactions. If they’re standing around the store and we deal poorly with a ticked-off customer, the happy customer is likely taking mental notes. “If I have a problem, that’s how they’ll probably deal with me,” is what they may think. 

Gerald Wheelus is general manager of Edgewood Auto Parts, Edgewood, Texas.












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