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Meet Fred: A Leader in How to Provide the Ultimate in Customer Service

June 10, 2010

Updated July 13, 2011

How many of you have been on the receiving end of superb customer service, to the point where you wondered if you had dreamed the experience?

With the broad spectrum of customer service, ranging from the fantastic to an Atilla the Hun experience, in which you managed to escape relying on your wits, it’s very difficult to predict what will happen each time we enter an establishment, pick up the phone or decide to go on a trip.

Today, I’d like to share with you a very real series of experiences that happened to me last year in a retail setting. I’ve decided not to mention the store or the products I purchased simply because it would detract from my main message. Of particular significance is that the three experiences occurred in the same store (part of a large chain) and with the same sales associate. Now I have you guessing!

One Sunday afternoon my wife, Sue, wanted to buy some flowers for our garden. I got enrolled to be the driver and while she was investigating the mad variety of plants, flowers, etc., I decided to take a cruise over to the tool corral. I had been mulling over whether to replace my old corded drill for something newer, more powerful and cordless. So there I was, aimlessly wandering around in the corral, salivating at the wonderful drills–just like a kid in the toy section.

Suddenly I heard “Sir, may I help you?” When I turned around I saw a portly fellow in his late fifties with the name tag “Fred.” I explained that I was just taking a look at the drills and debating whether I should buy a new one. Fred asked me a few questions then said, “Follow me, I want to show you an amazing new product that has just come it. Then he added “I know my drills!”

I obediently followed Fred.

What he showed me was pretty amazing, including the price. After explaining the drill’s features and some testimonies from customers who had purchased it, Fred said “Just a minute, I’ll be right back.” A minute later he reappeared with a six foot length of 4by4 and a handful of four inch screws. “We’re going to have some fun.” And with that I began to test out the drill.

Now I can imagine that my female readers may be reaching the end of their patience at this point in my story. All I can ask is for your patience since there are several powerful messages at the end.

Sue eventually found me, shaking her head when she saw the two of us with our new toy. But I had decided that this was the drill for me. I won’t go into its features. Fred then took us over to his counter. This is where it got interesting.

“Would you like to put this on your credit card?” he asked? “I can knock down the price further.” When I declined, I heard someone behind me pipe up, “I’d like one,” Sue exclaimed. And with that Fred efficiently got Sue approved for a card.

At the end of the sales transaction, Fred explained the importance of my doing the online registration for the warranty. On the sales slip he also pointed that we could go online and rate our customer experience, as well as possibly winning something. He then escorted us to the door, thanking us again. I didn’t know if I was more impressed with the very cool cordless drill I had just purchased or the superior customer service I had just received.

End of my involvement with Fred, Part One. Take a bio-break, or grab a beer or a coffee; there are two more stories to come.

A couple of months later I wanted to buy a tool chest since I was reorganizing my tool room.

Note to guy readers: I’m an economist, not a super fixer-upper like Mike Holmes, so go figure. I like to dream.

I went back to my regular haunt, in search of a tool chest. And who did I run into? You got it. Fred. “How’s the drill, sir?” he asked me. “A-1” was my reply. Fred then helped me select a tool chest that would meet my needs. I walked out one happy guy with a great tool chest. Same great customer experience.

Not long afterwards, I finally got off the proverbial pot and decided that I had to repair the oak banister going down to our family room. One of the joints had shifted and I was concerned that it would either break or someone would get hurt. I had some ideas how to fix it, but remember, I’m an economist, not Mike Holmes!

So back I went to my favorite haunt. But this time I was searching for someone in particular.


And there he was, diligently serving customers. I approached Fred and explained my problem. He reflected for a moment then said, “Follow me.” He showed me what I needed to fix the banister, detailing the steps. Cost of my supplies? Under $10. The end result was a repair job you can’t see and is so solid that you could drive a truck on the banister.

What lessons can we learn on how Fred exemplifies customer service, and to what we should all aspire when serving and assisting others?

Promptness: greeting customers and offering assistance: Fred was always very courteous and respectful when greeting and helping me. He kept his eye out for the wandering customer.

Attention to detail: Fred “knew his drills,” tool chests, how to properly fix banisters, plus much more. And he provided huge value to me through his knowledge and patience (remember, I’m an economist).

Courtesy: Sir, ma’am, not “dude” or “bud”: It was always “Sir” with Fred. You have no idea how many times I’ve been called bud, buddy, dude, etc. by people less than half my age. But then people my age are also often rude and condescending; so it’s not an age-specific thing necessarily.

Cross-selling Remember the drill? Who wanted the credit card?

Demonstration What better way to sell a product if the customer is able to have a tangible moment.

Escort to cashier: This is all about respect and how you value the people who walk through your doors every day.

Self-Empowerment: Fred empowered himself to be a superb floor associate. No one in management beat him over the head to provide excellent service.

In fact, that’s the wrong approach. Management sets the context, but employees have to self-initiate and believe in what they’re doing. The person who believes that customer service is a crock would be advised to seek another line of work.

So folks thanks for hanging in with me on this post, because if there’s one topic that riles me up, it’s bad customer service. I cut my teeth on customer service over 30 years ago while working for a finance company. And as much as it was difficult at times, I’ll never regret having done that work because of the important lessons I learned.

Customer service is not rocket science, but the way in which most organizations approach it it’s as if it is a necessary evil. If you work in a setting where you either provide internal organizational services or serve the public or suppliers, pause for a moment and ask yourself: “If I were to walk through these doors how would I expect to be received and treated?”

And if you feel frustrated or abandoned by your management when it comes to serving your valued customers, then think back to Fred. He’ll help you get reoriented and do what’s right.

You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.
(Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 10, 2010 11:22 pm

    Thanks Susan. Yes, you’re correct. Having patronized that hardware store for 10 years, Fred’s self-empowerment (his personality) would be the driving force for his attitude towards serving customers.

  2. June 10, 2010 11:12 pm

    Love the story about Fred. What a super employee. I wonder how much of his talent at working with customers was a result of his personality or of good management. I suspect it was mostly the former.

  3. June 10, 2010 10:21 pm

    Thanks very much, Mary. Great to hear from you!

  4. Mary Mimouna permalink
    June 10, 2010 9:55 pm

    Fantastic post, excellent points! I enjoyed reading this entry.

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