The Can’t/Won’t Syndrome

In business, customer service is king. In sales, it’s customer satisfaction selling. Both of these relate directly to customer retention and repeat business.

As a frequent traveler, one of my pet peeves at restaurants, hotels and other businesses has been what I call the “Can’t/Won’t Syndrome.” I’m sure you have experienced this scenario at one time or another.

One of my more common experiences occurs when I ask for a meal substitution. I was born and raised in Idaho and I like baked potatoes (imagine that). So I’m in a restaurant, and I notice that the menu has various meals with baked potatoes. I really want one their specialty burgers, but it comes with French fries. I ask the waiter/waitress if I can get the burger with a baked potato and am told, “Oh, I’m sorry but we can’t (or won’t) substitute.” Or perhaps I’d like green beans instead of broccoli, or whatever. I would not care if there was an upcharge, but they never offered that – only “we can’t.” Of course they could physically substitute, but management has decided to plant their unmovable flag on this hilltop.

When I encounter this kind of behavior, I just shut down. I will do whatever I can to not do business with them in the future. It is a basic failure of the business’s philosophy of management.

Now if they came back and said; “I’m sorry but we are out of baked potatoes (or green beans or whatever),” I’d accept and act accordingly. Providing a reasonable explanation will overcome the frustration that is created by the “Can’t/Won’t Syndrome.”

As an industry and dealer consultant and trainer, I visit dealers on a regular basis. Sadly, I have noticed this behavior in various dealerships. If you are an owner or GM, it is important to consider how this affects your dealership’s financial sustainability, let alone growth. Oh sure, you may get away with this attitude in the short term as your customers are willing to put up with more due to the scarcity of product. However, most customers will not tolerate this kind of behavior for long.

So, what does this mean to you Mr. Dealer? I will seldom buy from a business that has the “Can’t/Won’t” attitude. Again, if this is a one-time experience with a reasonable explanation, that is acceptable. The proper word-track would be; “I’m sorry Mr. Jones, but we aren’t able to do that because…”

One of the dealers I worked for in my youth had a philosophy of “going the extra mile” for our customers. We were all encouraged to use positive word-tracks in negative situations like; “We don’t have that accessory in stock, but let me make a couple of calls to see if I can get it for you.” Or; “I’m sorry but we can’t get your ATV repaired in time for you to pick it up by Friday. However, since you need it on the farm this weekend, I’ll stay late Friday to get it finished and bring it out to you Saturday morning.” Needless to say, our customers were very loyal to our store and not only came back, they brought in new customers as well. In addition, the value of doing business with our dealership had a positive influence on our pricing. We were able to hold higher margins on our products than many of the competitors.

Having a customer-satisfaction attitude and providing customer service training for managers and staff (and holding them accountable) will help ensure longevity and growth for your dealership.