Don’t Have Customer Service; Give Your Customer… Service

By Kevin Huhn

What does customer service mean to you? Have you ever wondered why companies call the place of returns, refunds, remarks and recommendations – customer service?

I learned a valuable lesson while I was the director of business development in pro hockey with the Central Hockey League. Instead of customer service being the place to go after a sale, I realized customer service was a philosophy of how to treat all people associated to the company like a customer.

Rather than departmentalizing customer service, I began seeing how every relationship, a company has, needs to be treated as a customer. I asked the league’s team owners and governors, “How do you want people to feel when they think about your business?” Their answers revealed a way of being that teams need to adopt to take care of people. What hit me was the shift in focus needed by all businesses to thrive. Professional hockey is entertainment. We needed to ensure that the customer was entertained. Making sure we gave our customer, service was an entire process not just when they were in the seat of the arena but also when they called for information or visited our on-line portals (website and social media).

Customers needed to be serviced at all touch points of the business. And most importantly every person who came in touch with us, was a potential customer (if they were not one already) and deserved our highest level of interest to be helped.

When you look at every person as a potential customer in your business, you look at them differently. For example, when someone thinks your company’s offering has enough value for them, they become a customer or they become the conduit to a customer. This could be your employee(s), your suppliers, your strategic partners, charity groups and even possibly your competition.

To provide your customer the best service your responsibility is to determine how you want people to feel when they think about your company. Do you want them to appreciate you and your team? Do you want them to feel they can trust you?

There is a man who transformed what customer service means in an industry where words like: sly, pushy, annoying, manipulative and dishonest came to mind for people. The man is Jim Gilbert and he is the CEO of Wheels & Deals, a used car dealership.

Can you imagine if your perception of a used car dealership was happy, huggable and helpful? Would you want to be their customer? That is exactly what Jim wanted his clients to experience.

I caught up with Jim to find out how this completely opposite way of thinking became the new target to shoot for in the car dealership industry across Canada.

Customer Service Defined

“Customer service is your business in the mind of your customer and potential customer” was Jim’s definition. “How we are looked at from their perspective. “Like the toilet paper being in the right place and how we say thank you or how we walk with them,” he continued to elaborate.

“We must go the extra mile. When someone comes in our dealership, we don’t ask: What can I help you with? We make a statement: I’m going to help you today.” He explained that people know why they come into a car dealership. They want help with why they are there.

The design of Wheels & Deals’ culture and creating a fan raving business, stemmed from the simplest of core values: Happy. Huggable. Helpful. “Hug every customer. Everyone becomes and feels like family and we help family,” was Jim’s response to the secret of their success.

In today’s marketplace there is a stigmatism about used car salesman and their lots. Think about it for a moment. What comes to mind when you think about a used car dealership?

Wheels & Deals did not only have the struggle of being different, they had to smash all limiting beliefs surrounding the used car sales experience. Jim said, “When we started the huggable way of being in 2006, other car dealerships laughed. They put us down and said it would never work. Today, other dealerships say they wish they were us.”

Like any business adopting a new way of working, there are obstacles. Internally, he shared “You need to champion what you want. You cannot tell your staff to be a certain way, while you do something different as the senior executive or owner. When Wheels & Deals came up with the Huggable Way of doing business, my job was to tell our story and then do what I shared.” He went into as people, “We all know what is right and wrong. You don’t abuse trust. You make sure you help others… even if it means your competition.”

Integration of Technology

The fundamental practice of customer service is staying in touch. “Today with the use of technology we can have a human face in a digital space.” Jim shared. He said that, “Staying in touch with people took time prior to cell phones and the internet. People would not come by a dealership unless they needed a car. With electronic text and video messaging, we can be in touch frequently to be top of mind.”

The playing field for businesses is the same regardless of the size of company. Everyone can have a website, social media portals and messaging campaigns. But if the technology is not used effectively, then there is no real connection being made, which is what Jim is now teaching others at Huggable University (an on-line program to inspire teams and ignite brands –

Jim made this comparison sharing a powerful strategy any business can follow. “Why would a dentist take a picture of a tooth and put that as the first thing you see on their website? We sell cars and unlike all other dealers, we do not post pictures of our cars on our website’s home page. We share a story with a video.” He urged me to watch it. “That is when you will connect and begin to be drawn into what we are about … our core values. Happy. Huggable and Helpful. The decision to buy a car will come because you trust us and know what we are all about.”

Conscious Service not Customer Service

You have a unique offering in your business. What you do with that is the differentiator. That action is what I am calling – Conscious Serving.

Jim described how being small or an independent business does not mean you cannot make a big splash and create big partnerships that can save you money in your business. “We send birthday gifts every year. We became a big customer to Canada Post with 15,000 items being shipped out every year. As we grew, we wanted more help. My discussion went to the head of Canada Post which resulted in Wheels & Deals getting its own post office configuration on our premises.”

I asked Jim, what would be the one thing he would advise Canadian business owners to do to be more conscious in their serving people. His reply was so simple yet so powerful. He said, “As Canadians we are conservative. We tend to be sheepish in our approach with people. Be more proud of who you are and pat yourselves on the back. Showcasing ourselves is not bragging, it is standing out and showing how we are being different. There are opportunities all over for each of us to provide each customer, service. You need to be a conscious service business to succeed in today’s marketplace.”

In short, Customer Service does not start after someone has made a purchase. Customer Service is the way your company does business day to day… with everyone it comes in touch with.

Kevin Huhn is the Founder of Be Your Best Today and through its mission wants to help business owners reinvent their brand with proven systems, programs and products that engage, empower and enlighten in order to impact their rate of success. To learn more visit

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