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My friend told me the story of his visit to a local auto dealership. He was considering purchasing a new pickup truck and a larger flatbed truck for his growing business.

He chose to visit this dealership based partly on the large amount of television and radio advertising they did. Their advertising touted their product line, financing options and most importantly their customer service.

My friend entered the showroom and looked at each shiny new model on display. He then walked every isle of the large lot and checked out vehicles and features. He was never greeted or assisted by a sales associate or even acknowledged. After about an hour he left the dealership.

When my friend arrived at home, he wondered why the dealership owner would spend his advertising budget to lure customers to the dealership where such poor customer service was apparently the norm.

As a courtesy, he called the owner and left him a voice message. He gave his name and phone number and explained his shopping experience.

The next day, my friend received a call from the owner of the dealership. He apologized profusely and he made his entire sales force listen to my friend’s voice message. He invited my friend to come back to the dealership and he promised to personally assist him. My friend did not go back.

The owner of the dealership was not only a failed leader; he was leading his organization toward failure.

In the Fire Service, as in the car business, internal and external customers develop their true opinions based on our performance. Their observations and their personal experiences define our success and outweigh any sales pitches or advertising.

The Fire Service leader, at every level, must be always mindful of their sales staff, the appearance of the dealership, their product and the balance between what they say they do and what they do. Most people never call the Fire Department for a fire. They do call for medical situations, lock outs, cats in trees, car wrecks, alarms, directions and the many other sundry things that they feel they can’t handle themselves.

If we show up, we show up on time and we show up prepared to make a difference we have continued the proud traditions of the service. That’s simple stuff. We are all Public Information Officers and we all market our product. We are ambassadors of the Fire Service, whether we like it or not. Our individual actions determine the collective success of the Fire Service.

The minority who serve as Billboards for Bad Behavior receive most of the news coverage while destroying the organization and the hard work of the majority. (See IN THESE BOOTS story Which Firefighter are you?)

Customers, whether internal or external, don’t care if you display more medals than Emperor Haile Selassie or other advertising. They do care if they are made to feel more important than your email gadget and cell phone. They want your attention, your eye contact, your firm hand shake and they want you be transparent about your product and to understand that they are the most important thing in the showroom at that moment.

Eldorado emblems on a Volkswagen are fruitless and insult the customer.

I’m having lunch with the mechanics today and the sales staff tomorrow.

Keep the showroom windows clean, customers are looking in.

Top sales persons train top sales persons.

Maintain your service pride.

Advertise what you deliver.

What’s on your billboard?

Invest in success.

Are sales numbers consistent when the leader is on vacation? I hope so.

My numbers are climbing. How about yours?

I don’t intend to watch your every move, but you get paid for what you sell.

Every customer is the most important part of your success.


Thanks for reading, sharing and selling. I need you.

Have a great day – it’s a GREAT day for it.

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