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idea creative services, inc.
PO Box 241065
Little Rock, AR 72223

By K2blackk · April 3, 2024

customer feedback, Lessons Learned, Business, Lifestyle

How to take care of your Customer- A Customer Service Saga

Flat Tires and my customer service experience

Picture this: I’m headed to Dallas, TX, to visit a client’s business. Two hundred miles into the journey, my world took an unexpected detour. Thanks to the marvels of run-flat technology, I limped to the nearest semblance of civilization — Mt. Pleasant, TX. A beacon of hope in the form of a tire shop shimmered on my phone, only to vanish as it closed down. With a sigh, I rerouted towards Starbucks, plotting my next move over a much-needed snack and tea (What can I say? I don’t drink coffee). That’s when I spotted Discount Tire, a potential savior across the street from Starbucks, only to be met with the disheartening news of a day-long wait for tire delivery with a delivery window of 10 am to 3 pm, followed by putting the tire onto the car. Not an option when I have an appointment that day.

The Odyssey of trying to use my AAA membership:

Thus began my odyssey with AAA.

Let me pause here and say I have used AAA for over 8 years. I pay for this service specifically for this reason. To help me when I am stranded and need help with my car.

To call my experience with AAA an exercise in patience is to be kind. It was more like a saga of calls and disappointments. It started simply enough with a call to their 1–800 line, providing a 16-digit membership number and requesting a tow to a place I knew would keep the tire for my vehicle. Well, at least you’d THINK it was simple. Each hour brought more frustration; no tow truck, no updates, and customer service that ranged from indifferent to outright rude. After waiting one hour, I call again. The original tow driver assigned declined the tow; they were working on finding someone. In hour two, I call again. No difference in my status, and still, no one was assigned to take my care to the dealership. Hour three: same song, third verse, this time with the joy of dealing with a rude customer service agent. Each call took 5–10 minutes JUST to get a person to hopefully give me some news of when I could expect help. My plight seemed invisible to them, a stark contrast to the urgency of my situation. Thank God I wasn’t stranded on the road and could get my car to the Starbucks parking lot. As the hours ticked by, my options dwindled, and my stress escalated. Calls to various services, including my insurance, offered no solace. Tire shops had no quick fixes; family and friends were too far away to provide immediate help. The realization hit hard: I was on my own in this.

OK… I have to take care of this myself. AAA obviously wants me to sit here indefinitely.

What are my options? A rental car? Does Mt. Pleasant have a rental car place? I googled it. Yes, they do. OK. Let’s call.

I called the rental car place and asked if a car was available. Yes, one is. Can it be delivered to the tire shop? Yes, they can. However, there will be a two-hour delay for delivery. Mmmmm. Hard pass. At this point, I’ve already been waiting for three hours, and it is 3 pm, so a 5 pm delivery. No thanks. I tell the attendant. I’ll call back or reserve online after I figure this out.

Let’s call Discount Tire and see if they’ll drive me to pick up my rental after I drop my car off.

I call. “No, ma’am, we can’t spare any of our techs to do that.” So, how am I supposed to drop off my car and pick up a rental when it is just me? Walk? Maybe Uber? I check to see if I can Uber. Yes, for approximately $10, I can go for 3 miles drive. Hmmmm. Let’s try one of the other tire shops I called earlier in the day asking if they had my tire. (side note: I had called multiple times, and no one had them, all said they could get the next day)

Enter Finish Line Tire and Lube, the unexpected heroes of my tale. I called the number I had dialed earlier in the day. With a voice of calm assurance, Ron offered not just the promise of a tire but a ride to the rental car agency. Their kindness was a beacon in the storm, starkly contrasting the indifference I’d faced elsewhere. They didn’t just see a customer; they saw a person in need and stepped up. Not only did Ron assure me they could get me to Enterprise, but he also gave me directions, told me to go slow on my run-flat tire, and said if I had any issues, they’d ensure I got my car there, and I was taken care of. Thank you! Finally, someone who is actually helping me.

Next, I logged onto my Expedia and reserved the car I had spoken to the customer service agent about. Reserved for me to pick up at their place instead of them picking me up.

I’m making progress. Yay.

Still nothing from AAA. No status update, nothing. At this point, we were at hour 4, so I limped my Mini to the Finish Line. Ron and his crew helped me move my luggage, computer, and camera to their truck so they could take me to Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

The Rental Car Saga:

Onto the next challenge. And a challenge it was. The rental car saga at Enterprise added another layer of challenge. Despite a reservation, I was met with the news of no available cars.

Um, excuse me. Why did you say you had a car and took my rental if none were available?

Securing a vehicle took every ounce of persuasion. Here are the highlights. I begged for a vehicle, agreeing to rent a dirty minivan. (I told the man I’d even take an 18-wheeler. I didn’t care about the size, the status, or even if it was dirty.) When I got the rental, he decided to try to charge me more because it was a bigger car than the one I had rented. Saying he was already doing me a favor.

Um, no, you’re not.

The whole experience wasn’t just about negotiating the price back to what was initially promised; it was about pleading for a solution, any solution, even if it meant driving away in a less-than-ideal vehicle. This wasn’t a simple transaction; it was a battle for basic service, a reminder that at the core of customer service lies the need to listen, empathize, and act with the intent to genuinely assist. And, let’s be honest, don’t promise what you can’t deliver (i.e., an actual vehicle if you don’t have one)

The best customer service
Customer service matters.

The Customer Service Contrast:

The contrast in customer service I received during this saga couldn’t be starker. At first, AAA, Discount Tire, and even Enterprise seemed to forget that the human element lies at the heart of service. It’s not just about fulfilling a service; it’s about understanding, empathy, and seeing the person behind the problem. Let’s take Discount Tire as an example. I understand you might not be able to provide a ride, but can you make an exception for someone stranded and with no one to take them anywhere?

This entire experience underscored a fundamental truth about customer service: it must be customer-focused. Our clients and those we serve don’t just look to us for solutions; they seek understanding, empathy, and a willingness to go the extra mile. It’s not about the grand gestures but the simple act of listening and striving to address their needs. In my case, only one person and business, Finish Line Tire and Lube, truly embodied this principle. They didn’t just offer help; they provided a lifeline when I was left to navigate the chaos alone. It was a stark reminder that the human element is paramount in the realm of service. It’s more than just resolving issues; it’s about making our clients feel heard and supported. In a world where indifference can be the norm, choosing to be the exception and being genuinely helpful can make all the difference. Let’s not forget that, at the end of the day, the ability to listen and earnestly try to help genuinely defines the quality of our service.

Ultimately, I made it to my client in Dallas, thanks to my resilience and Ron with Finish Line. It’s a reminder that, in our fast-paced world, taking a moment to truly listen and help can make all the difference. It’s about being more than just a service provider; it’s about being a lifeline in someone’s hour of need.

So, as we navigate the highways of our professional and personal lives, let’s strive to be the kind of service that doesn’t just solve problems but also cares. Let’s be the Ron at Finish Line Tire and Lube, making a difference one tire, one person, at a time.

Oh… and by the way, I canceled the AAA tow at the 5-hour and 15-minute mark. Still hadn’t heard ANYTHING from them. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, I was put on hold for 30 minutes, and I finally ended up in a cue that wanted me to go through the whole 5–10 min process of entering my 16-digit member number, etc. I hung up, but I still plan on (obviously when I have a few hours to waste) giving them a piece of my mind because, quite frankly, it was ridiculous!

Action: Review your customer service policies. Do they meet your customers actual needs?

Final Thoughts: Listening and extending a helping hand are not just acts of assistance but profound gestures of human connection and understanding. Customer service is essentially what its title says serving your customers needs. Too often our policies and hang-ups get in the way.

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