My sister bought a pet storm door from Lowe’s in Matthews, NC about a year ago. Over time, several parts on the door proved defective. She had a one-year warranty on the door, so about two months ago, she contacted Lowe’s and they sent a contract installer out to fix the door.

He had all the parts he needed except one and told her he would order the part and have it shipped to her house for installation that week. The part never arrived and the many subsequent calls to Lowe’s about the part were a lot of empty promises, but no results.

It's Not My FaultYesterday, I called and asked to speak to the store manager. When he answered the phone, I began to explain the problem and the first thing he said as he interrupted me before I finished was that the store doesn’t do the installations, so it wasn’t his fault, but instead the installer’s fault.

I politely told him that Lowe’s sold the door, so ultimately the responsibility was theirs, so he needed to get it taken care of. He said “I’ll call you right back.”

Thirty minutes later, I called back. When he answered, I reminded him that he’d told me he’d call right back. He was clearly annoyed and said he had just hung up with me ten minutes before. I told him it had been thirty minutes, and the reason I was calling back was this was the same thing that my sister had been listening to in repeated phone calls for about six weeks and there were never any calls back.

I made it clear that the problem had been unresolved long enough and I wanted a solution. I could hear by the tone of his voice that he was irritated, but he told me – which I doubt – that he was on the phone with the installation company, throwing in one more time that the problem was not Lowe’s’ fault. I told him I expected a resolution within the hour.

The installation company’s manager called me about five minutes later. I explained, without interruption, the problem and he told me that he’d get an installer out today if Lowe’s had the part needed in stock. I told him that this was poor leadership and poor customer service and that my sister shopped often at Lowe’s for home improvement items, but there were other home improvement choices within sight of Lowe’s and the odds were good she was going to be taking her future business there. He listened and he got it.

Just a few minutes later he called back and said an installer would be at my sister’s house between 9 am and 10 am this morning to do the installation. I thanked him.

The time frame came and went this morning (my sister had a dentist appointment at 11 am this morning) with noUnquintessential Leadership

‘I counted internally to ten to get my temper under control and then told him politely but firmly that the internal problems of communication, follow-up, and completion of jobs between Lowe’s and the installation company were not my concern as a customer. The door was purchased at Lowe’s and all subsequent work was coordinated by Lowe’s, so the responsibility was his as the store manager. I told him to get it resolved or I would have no choice but to escalate it to the Lowe’s corporate office.

He said he’d call me back once he got it resolved. Not only did he not call back, but he did not bother to call the installation company either. At 10:55 am, while my sister and I were at the dentist’s office waiting for her to go back, the installer called and said he was at the house and asked if anyone was home.

I explained that no one was there and that was why the appointment was scheduled between 9 am and 10 am – he then started making excuses about why he was late (I asked why he didn’t call this morning if he knew he was running late and we could have rescheduled, and he gave me another set of excuses) – so he’d have to come back. Supposedly, he will be here tomorrow morning between 8 am and 8:30 am.

The store manager at the Matthews, NC Lowe’s exhibited pure unquintessential leadership. It is clear that he doesn’t have a big-picture understanding that losing customers affects the company’s profits and when corporate profits fall, stores close and this one could well be one of those that closes and he will be out of work.

Had he been a quintessential leader, he would have done the following:

  • Listened without interrupting
  • Taken ownership of the problem and the solution
  • Followed up with me each step of the way in the process
  • Offered a good-will gesture, such as a store credit or a gift certificate, for all the things that went wrong to retain a customer

As quintessential leaders, we can never afford to have an experience like this one take place under our watches. Everything matters.

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