Everything You Need To Know About Customer Service You Can Learn From Nashua Outdoor Power Equipment.

This rant has nothing to do with vintage style or classic movies. This is obviously a rant about traditional values, more to the point on how they are sorely lacking in too many people's behavior. In this day and age and it's a mystery to me how many businesses can remain open if they allow one employee or manager to deliver poor customer service.

Also, one bad employee can endanger the livelihood of the hard working staff members and destroy hard earned reputations of an establishment in an instant, a fact that managers, supervisors and owners should relearn. Indulge me for a couple of paragraphs while I use this experience to illustrate this point. [You can skip to the point now...]

John Deere 2005I have a John Deere Tractor. It’s an L111 Riding lawn more that I’ve used for the past couple of years and I think it’s older then my youngest son “H-Bomb.” I use it to mow half of our property that’s 2.35 Acers. I also use it to mow my neighbors percale that’s adjacent to ours. Because of the excessive wear and tear in this New England climate of extremes there is some severe dry rot on one of the rear tires. This is not an earth shattering problem, it should be an easy fix.

Shouldn’t it?

After some fun with trying to inflate this tire twice and it wouldn’t hold any air long enough to make one full sweep around the property, I went to the John Deere Outlet in Nashua New Hampshire to either get a new tire or a new inner tube. This is where my frustration and anguish starts and your fun begins…

I went to the service counter with my sons and told the man behind the counter… (portly fellow, mustache, lazy dispossession, For brevity, let’s call him “Jon.”) what I needed. I need a replacement tire for my John Deer Riding Tractor L111.

John Deere 1He told me that I would need the “number” on the tire. But I shouldn’t need it because I should be able to re-inflate the tire with no problem. These tires are supposed to last forever. If that doesn’t work come back with “number on the tire” and he’ll be able to sell me what I need.

I left empty handed. I couldn’t help the feeling that I was being screwed with. How can this guy not know how to look up the part number. When you go on-line to look up John Deere Dealerships in my area, this location is listed. This place is supposed to be the convent “go to” place for all my lawn mowing needs!

Again, I have to wonder if this guy was being lazy or I was being screwed with.

My boys and I drove the 25.66 miles and my Irish Alzheimer's kicks in - I forget everything except the grudges. I’m thinking about this incident, dwelling on how I will have driven more then fifty miles and lost more then an hour and a half and the tractor still isn’t fixed.

The weekend comes and goes, I get a lot of other things done outside and on this site, and this isn’t too far from my mind. I’m also thinking about how one of our favorite vendors has gone “all digital.” This is a one man operation without the same resources and he set up a system where he can look up orders and parts he needs in less then a minute on his computer. If this vendor can do that, why can’t a big cooperation like John Deere?

Or is it the Jon The Parts Manager at Nashua Outdoor Power Equipment messing with me?

John Deere 2005 - 2Tuesday I’m back in the area and the thought dawns on me… let’s give this another whack. I go inside and head right for the service desk. I talk to Jon again and ask him if remembers me from last week… he replies that he couldn’t since he sees a lot of people every week. OK - granted. (Then again…. Unless you’re me you don’t see people wearing fedoras every single day…)

I tell him again about the flat tire and it’s dry rot. I either want to replace the whole rear tire or just in inner tube for my John Deere L111. Without even looking at the computer he tells me I have to go back and get “the number” off the tire itself. The bulb blew in my melon - this isn’t a fluke. This guy is lazy.

I start to head for the door that that evil voice in side my head says - “Hey, this is the makings for an awesome rant!” I stop by the door and watch an older gentleman at his desk talking to another customer on the phone. I just assume he's the store manager.

When he gets off the phone I go to the desk and I ask him if he has a minute. I tell him that I guess he’s in charge and he should know that this will be the second time I leave this establishment empty handed. For whatever reason, this character in question (Jon The Parts Manager) doesn’t want to sell me a tire or what I need to fix the deflated one.

John Deere 2005 - 2We go back to the service desk, and I proceed to explain why I find it impossible to believe that he can’t find the part number needed. He can’t look it up on the computer/internet? There isn’t a John Deere “Intraweb” for this task?

Jon proceeds to lose his temper and tell me no - if he looked it up in the system all it would say is “tire.” I need to go back home and get the number I need!

I leave with the words: “I’m not finished here…”

I head towards the smaller John Deere dealership a few miles away while on the phone with Doug Palumbo. Using his Apple iPhone he’s able to find the information that I needed: 20-8X8 - which is actually the size of the tire… information that took him less then 7 minutes to find on his smart phone?

Once inside the Amherst branch of “Nashua Power Supply,” I start from scratch, telling the three guys in the shop I need to fix my rear tire for my L111. They tell me my options, I could use a replacement tube or replace the whole tire, both of which they have in stock!

http://www.rnjohnsoninc.com/images/rnj_logo.gifIs that hard to find? No… it’s right there somewhere. Before I was finished explaining what I needed, one of the men on duty had the tube I needed in his hands. I pay for the tube, they also ask that I call Fred Hayden, owner of the two John Deere stores at 603-598-4644 and be sure I tell them about my experience. “I’ll do more then that,” I said.

Twenty miles and 45 minutes later I arrive home and I look up John Deere dealerships in Southern New Hampshire. I find this one here…

I call up and after speaking to Liz who’s working the front desk and talk to Peter in Service. The call took all of 4 Minutes and 37 Seconds total, comprised of telling them that I needed to repair or replace my rear tire and being on hold, and finally getting the part number needed for the inner tube: 1TU320410.

I asked twice - will that fix my rear tire on my John Deere L111 tractor? Peter said yes. If I would like, he’ll have it waiting for me at the desk tomorrow.

I called the John Deere Residential and Commercial Equipment and spoke to Josh, the customer representative who took the call. I told him my problem and he promptly told me that I could go to any John Deere Dealer with a parts and service counter and they will be able get me the tube I need immediately. He even had the part number and description on his screen and the dealerships near me…

He gave me the location of Nashua Outdoor Power Equipment in Nashua New Hampshire as the location of the part I need, all I need to do is tell the man behind the service counter that I have an L111 John Deere Tractor and that I need the part for the rear tire... no other information would be necessary.

John Deere 2While writing this rant and having it almost finished, I actually drove the thirty plus miles to Walpole, New Hampshire. Once I reached one of the service desks, I told the man behind the counter that I have an L111 Lawn mower and I need either a replacement tire or inner tube. He entered that information via his key board and a few key strokes later he has what's called an "exploded diagram" on his monitor with the pictures of all the items that go into making the front wheels, next to them are the part numbers.

I asked: "Is this set up unique just to this store?"

Doug replied: "No, every certified John Deere shop has 'em." With in 8 minutes I was in the Walpole dealership I have the inner tubes I need, and some John Deere swag for my shed.

During the sojourn to Walpole, I received a call from Fred Hayden and we spoke at length about this problem. I described to him what happened, giving him an abbreviated version of this rant over the phone and how much easier it was for me to just tell people behind the desk or over the phone by telling them I have an L111 John Deere tractor.

Fred told me that he wished he could keep a muzzle on Jon and far away from the customers as possible. But Jon is a great guy for details, he's the reason why that department runs so smoothly. Really, that department runs smoothly. Could it be because customers like myself make his job easier by going to other locations? Being rude and condescending to customers is preferable so long as the parts department runs "smoothly."  I don't think Fred Hayden and an adequate response to that.

John Deere 3Is it customary to send customers away empty handed? Fred Hayden said no... it's the job of that department to make sure that the customers leave with something, even if it might be the wrong thing, just so long as the customer knows they're trying to help them out and not letting their machines remain idle. So, on that level, Jon failed at his job again. So why is he still there? Fred Hayden and an adequate response to that, either.

 "Jon really knows his parts." Really? He didn't know his parts for the L111 or didn't know how to look up what a customer needed on a system that every John Deere Dealership has access to.

All of this brings me to this point…

John Deere 4My John Deere L111 and the issues with the flat tire and the employee of "Nashua Outdoor Power" is symbolic of what's wrong with this economy and the people who are causing it to stall.

If you haven’t noticed that we’re experiencing a recession. There’s also something called a “trade deficit” which means that we’re importing more goods and services then we’re exporting. The United States and perhaps the rest of the world is taking hammer blows to the chin from other nations that we thought were beneath us. Why?

Companies are dying trying to find ways of better servicing customers, but failing horribly. Why? I can only guess that its because of experiences like this: weak links that ruin the customer experience.

How can an establishment that specializes in parts and service NOT have the part number for a common product? How come Jon didn’t bother to look it up on the computer? In this day and age of connectivity, the internet and “intranets” (an internet exclusively for with in an organization) how can someone not be able to look up a part or even humor the customer who perhaps made a special trip. Were this still the 20th Century - there would be paper catalogs to flip through and find what you need with little effort, or someone on staff knowledgeable who knows how to find what you’re looking for. The idea of sending a customer out the door empty handed to get information that you should have at your finger tips is absurd.

Were this an isolated event, this wouldn't have become a long rant. It obviously isn't a once-in-a-lifetime fluke as you can tell my visiting all the "customer complaints" and Consumer Advocacy groups online.

Using Google, type the words "customer complaints" and the name of any company or product and you'll read stories similar to this one. The consistent theme in all of them are the same: people who simply don't want to do their jobs, just hold down the counter and collect a pay check.

Right now we're in the midst of an economic crisis where unemployment is officially reported to be above 10% and the actual numbers might be closer to 20-25%. If you have a job, wouldn't it be in your best interest to keep it? Good people with good jobs want to keep them, good people who don't have jobs want to get them. Shouldn't a "Parts Manager" want to do something more then hold down the counter and make a customer like myself coming back? Apparently not.

I'll leave you with this thought - if a customer like myself has a genuinely bad experience because one employee doesn't want to do his job, and that customer takes his business elsewhere, who's really hurt in the long run? If many customers do the same thing because of the same bad experience because of one bad customer and the entire customer base migrates to a competitor? What are the owners of the companies we rely on doing about this?  Fred Hayden should have adequate response to that. 

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When was the last time you were screwed over by a specialty shop?

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