My Favorite Customer Service Story

By Alvin Mason

I told this story to my children and I tell it to anyone I have a professional relationship with. Sometime in the early 1980’s I was driving in a rural part of North Carolina. A wingnut was missing from the top of the air filter housing in my car. The top would rattle and then popped off. I pulled off at the next exit and as I looked for an auto parts or hardware store I saw several confederate flags on people’s properties. As an African American I became cautious.

I find a hardware store and go inside. As I am looking at the nuts a gentleman (white man) ask me, “sir may I help you”. I begin explaining my problem and tell the man I don’t know what size nut I need. He says, “well let’s take a look”. We go out to my car and I pop the hood and the man looks at the threads of the screw that I need a nut for and in 5 seconds he tells me what size I need. We go back inside and he gets the wingnut charges me 47 cents and volunteers to put it on. I said, “thank you I can put in on”. It was the right size. That was the best customer service experience I ever had in my life.

I was so impressed that I decided that whenever I was in a situation where my knowledge or service could help someone I was going to be just like that man. For my whole career I have treated people with the respect and dignity that I was shown that day.

That is my favorite Customer Service Story and here is what it lead to. Many times in my working career that attitude helped me standout. I will give two examples of my customer service.

When I worked as the help desk attendant in a college computer lab, at 2 o’clock in the morning the computers would reboot. Everything was erased except the programs. If anyone was doing work when the computers rebooted they would lose everything if they did not save it to an external device (flash drive) or their student account storage. I began making announcements 30 minutes before the reboot and again 10 minutes before. I also was able to persuade my higher-ups to make signs about the rebooting process.

Once when I was a Christmas seasonal worker which was to last about 1 month, my customer service got me noticed. The Hecht Company had secret shoppers and every time I was evaluated I received an excellent rating. When it was time to sever the seasonal workers employment I was one of three out of almost 200 seasonal workers who was asked to stay.

My evaluations continued to be excellent and within a year I was asked to become a Commissioned Sales Associated in Men’s Clothing. My attitude and customer service were the reasons I was very successful in sales. For me customer service was not always making a sale. It was satisfying a customer. There were many times that I told a person who was ready to buy a suit that wasn’t exactly what they were looking for, “if you don’t have to have this suit for tomorrow you should look around some more. When you spend $300 you should be totally happy with your purchase and not settle for less than what you really want”. I lost the sale but I gained a repeat customer who would request me.

Telling people to wait and look in other stores or telling a person, “the suit you are buying goes on sale in 2 days, let me hold the suit for you so you can pay the sale price”. Needless to say the appreciation customers had for the customer service I gave became goodwill and resulted in many referrals.

The story of my customer service started with a 47 cent wingnut.

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