Why is it so difficult these days to find businesses that care about their customers?
I asked myself this question again today as I visited stores and shops looking for a few simple brackets that used to be available at every corner hardware store. The responses that I got ranged from people trying to one-up me with their technical knowledge without first attempting to understand the problem, to treating me (the customer) as if I was a nuisance. One counter clerk even exhaled with a heavy sigh when my request dislodged him from his stool located away from the service counter, as if this was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do at the end of a very long day, yet it was only 10:am!!
On a positive note, I did receive a tip to go to a shop that would actually make exactly what I needed, made to my specifications right on the spot while I waited. It sounded too good to be true but it was worth a shot.
When I arrived at Malmberg Truck Trailer Equipment LTD., located in Ottawa Canada, two smiling faces behind one of the service counters greeted me. The place reminded me of a mechanic’s version of an indoor shopping mall, or perhaps a farmers market. I was directed down a hallway lined with little shops. One sign said brakes. The one that I was looking for was the spring shop. Each shop was equipped with whatever they needed to complete their work, whether it be remanufacturing break components, or as was the case with the spring shop, manufacturing the brackets that I needed for my project.
The whole experience reminded me of my visit to a recreation of a western town, and now I was in the blacksmith shop, except it had modern tools. I placed my order and the man went to work manufacturing the eight brackets, and then as part of his quality control step, manually adjusting with his hammer and anvil to make a perfect fit. Start to finish my visit took less than twenty minutes.
I reflected on my own work helping organizations move in this direction of focusing on providing value to the customer rather than performing tasks and complaining. I thought about a quote I had read in a book, and it seemed to apply
“It is no harder to build something great than to build something good. It does not require more suffering than perpetual mediocrity" - Jim Collins, Good to Great
As I continued my journey through the Malmberg shop and stopped at the cashier, I was prepared to hear a phrase that, like many people I have grown tired of hearing when I thank someone for his or her service. But the phrase “no problem “ was not what I heard. I never expect to be a problem. Thankfully, the man at the Malmberg cash register did not use that phrase. Instead of me being his problem, he was more concerned with solving my problem, which the Malmberg team had. One of the other employees heard me comment on how refreshing their attitude towards customers was. He enthusiastically offered that they are each very aware that no customers means no pay cheque.
As written here, this story may not have the impact on you as it did on me that day, but whenever I begin to get discouraged by complacency within the teams that I am hired to improve, I will think back to this day and how refreshing it is to walk in to a place where everyone already gets it. At Malmbergs the focus is on the customer, whether it be an external customer walking in off the street, or an internal customer such as the truck repair shop just down the hall from the brake shop or the spring shop.