They say, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” a.k.a. it’s better to hold onto something you have than risk losing it by trying to get something better. During the past week, on two separate occasions, and in two different countries, I’ve been that metaphorical “bird.” And both times, I flew away.
Last week, while preparing to drive home to San Diego from Kelowna, BC, Canada I discovered the night before we were to set off that the California summer tires on our SUV weren’t going to get us over the Coquihalla mountain pass. When my brother had a serious cycling accident in late August, we left home very quickly to spend what became almost seven weeks in Canada to help him recover. Winter tires weren’t top of mind when we left in the late summer heat. Now, they were a requirement to get over the pass as the snow at that elevation had just started to fly.
Finding the right tires was the first challenge, the second was finding a shop to install them the next day. My brother’s friend – the Parts Manager at the local Mercedes-Benz dealer – did some quick research about our Porsche wheels, and found a low-pro set from his Pirelli dealer that would be perfect. This required a little research on his part, the two German brands were just different enough. His service department was backed up through November, but he offered the possibility of sending us to their sister Lexus dealer for the install.
Slightly relieved that Lance may be able to save us, our plan was to call the Porsche Kelowna dealer first thing the next morning in case they had a better option. Here comes the first miss. And it’s the epitome of order taking vs. problem solving. Porsche didn’t have the tires we needed, but for $4,000 they could sell us a full set of new wheels and tires. How were we going to haul our current (and better) rims home in an SUV packed with the dog and seven weeks’ worth of stuff? Not possible.
My explanation was met with silence by the Porsche service advisor. She had simply checked her list of what was in stock and nothing more. She was nice enough. But an order taker, not a problem solver. Presumably she would have been able to buy the same tires Lance did from the warehouse down the road, mark them up more than the family discount he gave us, charge us the install and balance fee, and maybe even squeeze out a service as well. We would have happily paid more than we ultimately did for the saved-by-Lance version. Being in the service business really should mean more than having a smile in your voice. It should mean thinking critically and creatively to solve your customer’s problem.
Fast forward six days, we’re back at home and I notice a Blue Apron box on our front porch when returning from my morning walk. I’m a make-it-from-scratch kind of person and we don’t subscribe to Blue Apron. The box on our porch was addressed to a David F. who lived about four miles away. Nothing about his address matched ours. My first thought was to drive it to his house. My second, wiser thought, was to call Blue Apron and let them know David’s dinner(s) had landed on our porch so they could fix it.
Again, a really nice guy answered the customer service number, took David’s information and as I prepared to give him our address so they could send UPS, FedEx, or whoever, over to redirect the food, he told me they can’t do that. COVID. Instead, he invited me to keep it, enjoy it or donate it to someone who could use it. I told him we aren’t subscribers. And I’m now holding a free sample of his product. The perfect bird in hand. He didn’t ask for my name, or offer to send me an additional trial coupon, or even try and sell me on their product. Again, he was nice enough, just not really interested in converting me into a paying customer.
That night we enjoyed Calabrian-fig chicken dinner (thanks David) and it was kind of a fun paint-by-number project for me, albeit an expensive product sampling error and missed opportunity for Blue Apron. With a little more creativity and willingness to go off script their customer service rep might have turned me into a paying repeat customer. Twice in one week, this “bird in hand” flew away taking my business and opportunity elsewhere.