Why Customer Service Matters: A True Story

Cailley Hammel Headshot

I grew up with an aboveground pool, and I have a lot of strong memories of the ownership process, from the day our backyard was torn up by Bobcats (the diggers, not real bobcats) through the long hot summers made cool by that simple round aboveground behind our house.

My dad, the main caretaker of our pool, was a regular at the local pool store for years — until the day he vowed to never set foot in the place again. That day, he went to get some hydrogen peroxide for the pool. What he didn’t know when making the purchase was that the bottles were vented; they needed to stay upright, otherwise the contents would spill. 

No one at the store said anything about this, and my dad slugged the product in the back of the car on the floor, right by my sister’s feet. 

Of course, during transport, the bottles spilled. Luckily, the contents didn’t land on my sister, but it did spill all over the carpet of the car, discoloring it. My dad got some rags to blot up the excess chemical and got it on his hands in the process.

Afterward, he began to feel a tingling sensation. His fingers turned white. 

He called the store to lodge a complaint about what happened — that he wasn’t warned about keeping the bottles upright, that the car had been damaged and that he actually incurred physical pain from the experience.

The retailer? Unfazed. “The warning’s on the bottle,” they spat back. My dad asked to speak with a manager, who took a similar tone. 

“The guy didn’t want to talk to me at all,” my dad said. 

My dad being my dad, he then called the manufacturer to complain. And, surprisingly, they were beside themselves. 

“Are you okay? Do you need to go to the doctor?” they asked. They even covered the cost of the damage to the car, which amounted to about $500. 

I realize this kind of story is rare, but I share it to underscore one of the main themes of our industry: customer service is absolutely critical. 

For example, this incident which ended our relationship with our closest, most convenient pool store, could have been easily prevented with a gentle reminder from the professional behind the counter. With the help of today’s super-cool software systems, you can even program a pop-up message to prompt a cashier to pass along such warnings to customers. 

And other small things, like packing fragile product in boxes for safe transport, are easy ways you can go the extra mile.  

Because of this incident, not only did this retailer lose out on future chemical and accessory purchases — they lost out on the chance to sell my dad our next aboveground pool. (As a matter of fact, Dad travelled farther to buy a pool from the competition.) 

While these bad customer encounters seem like things you can simply brush off, you really can't — every customer is crucial to survival.

Let’s chat. What are the things you do to elevate your customer service? 

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