Anyone who has worked in a service related industry could rattle off a long list of DOs and DON'Ts as it pertains to providing good customer service. Customer service is one of the most important aspects of sales. It is one thing to make a sale once, but if a company wishes to continue in business year after year, how it handles customer service makes the difference in longevity and profitability. As any sales person should know, it is easier (and generally costs less internally) to sell another item to an existing customer than to continually spend the money and put for the efforts to find new prospects to turn into sales. The fact is, it costs a business much less to keep a customer than to make a new customer. This is why customer service is important. In theory, if a business provides good customer service to a customer, the customer will continue to purchase from that company. Therefore, a large portion of a company's business usually comes from repeat customers, and in general a smaller portion comes from new customers who are then converted into long-term customers. Businesses who do not understand this concept, and who provide poor customer service, will find that their profits dwindle. AutoZone is an example of a retailer that has seen a loss over time due to their inability to provide good customer service. "Operating in a mature and fragmented marketplace, AutoZone's growth has been largely dependent upon increases in store count rather than its same store sales which have been lagging over the past 5 years" according to Wikinvest (whose stock information is sponsored and provided by E-Trade). While still the largest player in the industry, O'Reilly Automotive is quickly gaining ground, most likely due largely in part to the service one receives at O'Reilly's.
Inputting the phrase "AutoZone customer service" into google.com brings up about 5,650 results with pages upon pages of links, the largest portion negative comments. In fact, their customer service rating on Customer Service Board is a 66.87 out of 200 points possible. While putting in the phrase of "O'Reilly Auto Parts customer service" warrants only about 463,000 results, with a large portion being positive experiences. The service, level of expertise, warranty backing, and overall commitment of O'Reilly's has given this company the momentum to be ranked as one of the best retail service providers in the auto parts business. Go ahead, do the goggle search yourself and check out the feedback you read, by and far you will see the majority of the AutoZone links to be negative, while the majority for their competitor remain extremely positive.
Personally, I have been an AutoZone customer for more than 15 years. In general, most every car I have ever owned as been a lemon, thus I have spend a good portion of time and money buying parts at the local AutoZone through out that span of time. Finally reaching the age where I can buy a reliable car, and one that doesn't need repairs, I kept my loyalty for the company that has taken care of me over the years...AutoZone. That is, until now. In one horrific customer service nightmare of a move, AutoZone, whom I have relied on and been loyal to for years upon years, lost my business...FOREVER! I am sharing my experience here because I want people to fully understand the magnitude that poor (albeit in this case it was worse than that) customer service can have on a company. Sub-par customer service can be the catalyst that literally creates the ripple that starts the wave, which eventually becomes the tsunami that wipes a company out. AutoZone, consider this your storm warning...the wave is coming.
At the age of 36, I have finally graduated the stage of getting a car that I DON'T have to work on (at least for a while). However, with a new snazzy car (love my PT Cruise) I decided that while I didn't have to invest the money in "fixing" the car, I could instead "invest in pimping out my ride" instead. I first stopped in at O'Reilly's Auto Parts, only because it was literally next door to the grocery store I had just left. I was on the hunt for Supergirl accessories for my ride. O'Reilly's had Supergirl floor mats for the (front seat), key chain, and decal, which I purchased. While checking out, I mentioned that that I had been initially looking for Supergirl seat covers and matching back mats. The man immediately offered to special order me the items, and mentioned a few more other Supergirl items he had already in stock. I told him that it was okay, I usually shopped at AutoZone anyway and I wanted to check and see what Supergirl items they had in stock to purchase before I special ordered items. I even added, "Besides, I can just order the items there if they don't have them either." The gentleman at the counter simply smiled, thanked me for my business, and invited me to come back and shop anytime. I spent roughly $25 there before I left, driving a to the west side of the city, AutoZone bound.
When I arrived at AutoZone I went directly to the car accessories, after all, I know how to navigate around the store well...I should as many times as I have been there! They didn't have any Supergirl items in stock, but they did have a catalog on the aisle that I glanced through and found the items I needed to order. In addition, I found a fuzzy pink steering wheel cover that I simply had to have. I grabbed it and the catalog and headed to the counter. Joe, the assistant manager, and another younger fellow helped me. The younger fellow didn't know how to special order items, so Joe walked him through the process. The young man informed me that my custom ordered car seat covers and backseat mats would be in within two days since they had to order them from the manufacturer, but since they were coming direct from the manufacturer I had to go ahead and pay for them in advance. I did, but while I was checking out I mentioned a heater core that I had purchased there about 3 months ago that I had never taken out of the box. I told Joe that I didn't have a receipt since it wasn't provided to me at the time of purchase (I had purchased it over the telephone) and I wasn't given one when I picked the product up either. Joe told me not to worry about it that I was a good customer and to just bring the product (still sealed in the box) back and that worst-case scenario I would only be given in-store credit. In addition, he told me to check my bank statement that had the transaction recorded on my card and that he would most likely be able to trace the transaction back that way if I wanted to get cash back instead. Joe did go ahead and check my account on the computer, I apparently have a few of them since they reference them with your phone number rather than directly by name and I have had many phone numbers over the last 15 years. He said the transaction wasn't tied to my accounts but that I was a good customer and he would take care of it...no problem. I left the store very excited about the prospect of having my new car "Supergirl'd out" before the upcoming weekend's end.
When Saturday came, I gleefully took my receipt, credit card, and heater core in its sealed boxed to the local AutoZone. A man who didn't know how to look anything up on the system waited on me first. He apologized for his lack of computer knowledge, explaining to me that he was an AutoZone delivery driver normally. He went and got another young man who was able to look on the system to see my order. The young man went to the back to get my items but came back a few minutes later empty handed. He then grabbed another AutoZone associate (the young man who had actually placed the special order) who then checked the computer and went to the back to find my items. This associate too came back empty handed. Apparently, my order had not come in on the day promised, but he assured me that someone would call when it did arrive. While I was somewhat disappointed, I have ordered enough items from AutoZone to know that this is often times the case and that most likely my stuff would arrive by Monday or Tuesday. I told the associate that I would like to go ahead and return the heater core while I was there. He looked at me and said, "Joe isn't here. He is at lunch. I don't suppose you would like to wait about 30 more minutes for him to return, would you?" I told him that I had a lot of things to get done and would prefer it if I didn't have to wait. He went to the back to get the store manager.
The store manager, Robert, came to the counter. He was probably 6 foot tall and I am guessing about 400 lbs. He looked inconvenienced from the get-go, but did ask what he could help me with. I explained the situation, and gave him the information from my bank statement that even included the store's number, which is store # 0522, the total amount including tax spent for the part, and the date the transaction went through my bank account. The manager told me upfront he probably couldn't do anything but that he would go back and research it. I stood at the counter for 20 minutes. While I couldn't see the manager, I could hear him laughing, cutting up with employees, and in general taking his time as though my time held no value. Eventually Robert came back to the counter and informed me that he couldn't trace the transaction as one that came from "his" store. I pointed to the store number and asked him if that number was for the location we were at. He agreed it was. I showed him the unopened box with the part inside and the side of the box clearly had an AutoZone tag on it, with a tracking number, part number, and many other items of reference that I am sure meant something to him. He wrote down some number off the box and headed to the back once again.
Robert came back a few minutes later and informed me that there is no way I got that part from "his" store because the only one of those particular heater cores that was sold at his store was sold in November. Was this man calling me a liar? It sure did seem like he was calling me out as being up to something underhanded. I then recounted the entire experience. Telling him how I had ordered over the phone, he then wanted to know the name of the associate I had spoken to as though I was going to remember that from 3 months ago. He then questioned why the ordered wasn't attributed to my account. I informed him I hadn't a clue, and how did I have control over that...wasn't that his associates' job to ensure that he tied an order to my phone number not my job as the customer? I explained again how I had ordered the part over the phone and how the man on the other end of the line told me it would be in for me to pick up within two days. I gave him my credit card over the phone since it wasn't being ordered and wasn't in stock...see a pattern here about what they DON'T have in stock (basically anything that I need it appears). I had gone to the store to pick it up two days later, however the part hadn't come in yet. A week or so later I came back to pick the part up only to find that someone had shipped it back since I didn't pick it up in a timely manner. They then reordered it to return back to the store (note they never refunded me even after they sent it back, but claimed they didn't have the stock room to continue to hold it in the store for me even though it was paid for). Once the part was back in the store, I picked it up. After all that, I ended up not even needing the part as once my mechanic tore into the car, we realized it wasn't the heater core that had been leaking into the front passenger floorboard but another issue entirely. When I finally finished recounting the details, the manager simply looked at me and shrugging his shoulders he said, "Well, why do you keep coming to us for things if we keep messing up your orders?"
It was then that I realized he had a point. I told him I would take care of the issue myself and asked him for the District Manager's number and the number for AutoZone Headquarters' (which he didn't give me but instead gave me a cell phone number that ended in 0427 claiming it was the number I asked for). I asked him to look up my accounts so that I could have the numbers of how much money I had spent at the store in the past. He informed me I could have the district manager look that information up and that he had already spent more time working on my account than it was worth. I then told him that he could go ahead and credit me back for the special order that I had made since it wasn't in anyway. He asked for my receipt, which I immediately handed him. He did whatever he needed to do in the system and then informed me all that I needed to do was "click OKAY" on the credit card machine and the money would be credited back onto my bankcard. I told him that I wanted to look at my receipt first to ensure that he didn't leave an item off. This apparently upset the manager who was clearly at a loss for patience with me by this point. He reiterated that I simply needed to "click OKAY". I told him as soon as I checked my receipt that I would. He added that there was no need to check my receipt that the tax wouldn't show up until after I clicked on okay. I told him that was fine, but I was still checking my receipt first and then I would click on okay. He simply couldn't allow me the time to do the math I guess, because the man actually took the credit card plastic pointer pen and started reaching over the counter to "click OKAY" for me. He asked him to stop, "let me do my math and I will click it!" He was persistent, still trying to click the virtual button on my behalf, disregarding my asking him to give me a moment to look over the receipt. I finally put my hand where he couldn't touch the credit card machine and asked him (very firmly) to stop it and give me a chance to look over my receipt. He was still trying to get around my hand to "click OKAY", so I finally grabbed the plastic pointer pen from him. In the process, my hand slightly touched his thumb, lightly touching him as I reached for the pen. The manager lost it from there.
Robert started yelling...I mean loudly. "YOU HIT ME!" He screamed over and over. I was flabbergasted. "Are you serious?" I asked with blatant sarcasm. I looked around and everyone in the store was now staring at us, who knows if they had been before or not. "YOU HIT ME! YOU HIT ME! I AM CALLING THE POLICE AND MAKING A REPORT AGAINST YOU!" The manager is screaming at this point. Spit is flying from his mouth; he is practically foaming. I didn't yell, though my voice got firmer as I said to him, "You are really that worried about having to deal with a little girl that you are going to pull this?" "YOU HIT ME!" He interjected again. I looked the man dead panned in the eyes and said, "Mister, if I had you, I assure you that you would know it. Everyone would know it." He then started jumping up and down, pointing his finger at me, and spitting as he exclaimed, "THAT IS A THREAT! YOU ARE THREATENING ME! I AM CALLING 911!" He started reaching for the phone to dial, and I looked at him and informed him that I was leaving, never coming back, and he lost a lot of money based on his behavior. I informed him I was never coming back, which of course he informed me I was never welcome back so that wasn't a problem.
This is an example of how NOT to treat a customer. There are so many other, more productive, ways that this manager could have handled the situation. He certainly didn't need to infer that I was lying. Next he could have been very apologetic about the situation explaining that it was out of his hands and given me a number to call, thus wiping his hands of the situation but in a professional manner. There are truly a number of ways he could have handled it that would not have escalated the situation to such a point. In no way, shape, or form, however should the manager have attempted to complete any transaction on my credit card on my behalf without my permission, and this includes "clicking OKAY". Nor should he have caused a seen, claiming to be hit when he wasn't, and to further that threaten to press charges against a customer on false grounds. This man, Robert, the manager of the Moore, Ok AutoZone should not be allowed to work with the public is this is how he handles customer relations as it pertains to issues. I do not know what motivated this man to behave this way, or to pull such an underhanded display of manipulative attention getting stunt. Perhaps it is due to a borderline personality that cannot handle the stress of dealing with the public, or maybe it was his way of trying to discredit my complaint that was surely going to be made this his manager. I do not know, but it doesn't matter at this point because the damage is done.
I made a phone call to my mechanic who has probably spent close to $100,000 with company. He says they just lost his business. I called several of my best friends and told them the story, again with the same promises that they will NEVER go there again after how I was handled. The fact is, I have never been known as a violent person. NO ONE who knows me would say that I am one to pick a fight, or one who is generally known for creating conflict. I am known as the person who avoids conflict. I do not like to fight, be it with a fist or verbally. People, who know me, know me to be a very honest person. I am the girl who tells on herself because if I didn't the guilt would eat me alive otherwise. I have no record of ever getting in a fight in my entire life, so this man claiming these things really upset me. I take it as a direct insult. The fact that this man made a scene with false allegations and put my reputation, integrity, and my personal professionalism on the line in such a way angers so much more than not receiving a refund could ever have done. No one should be treated the way this man treated me, let alone a customer. I will never darken the doorways of AutoZone again, and if I have anything to do with it, no one I know will without at least hearing my story and making an informed decision to work with a company that allows someone with ZERO interpersonal and customer service skills to manager a portion of a billion dollar enterprise!
O'Reilly's can thank Robert at AutoZone located on 12th Street in Moore, Oklahoma for their new found customer. It didn't cost O'Reilly Auto Parts one penny to earn my business or gain me as their newest loyal customer. AutoZone simply handed their 15-year customer over to them on a silver platter…the catalyst, poor customer service!
Product or Service Mentioned: Autozone Auto Part.