The Ashtray Story
A few years ago, Thomas O. Jones, a lecturer and author at Harvard Business School collected his BMW after its regular service. Driving the car home he was delighted by the car’s purring engine as he speeded along. The car had been cleaned inside and out and celebrating it, he lit a cigarette.
When he went to drop ash into the car’s ashtray, he discovered that the BMW garage had taken out the ashtray’s inner part to clean it and had forgotten to replace it.
A little bit annoyed, when he got home he rang the BMW dealer and asked for them to drop the ashtray part around to his house.
He was surprised and put out by the BMW employee’s reply which was effectively: “Sorry fella you need to come round here and collect it”.
As Mr Jones was one of the authors of the famous Harvard Business Review article “Putting the Service Profit Chain to work“, the BMW garage’s response engaged his professional curiosity.
What, he thought to himself, would their competitors do in this circumstance?
And so, he picked up the telephone and rang Cadillac, Jaguar, Mercedes, Volvo, Lexus and Lincoln to ask what their approach would be. Unsurprisingly, they all said: “Well, of course, Mr Jones, we would bring the part around to your house.”
Putting the phone down, he said to himself, “Yes talk is cheap, anyone can say that.” His mini-research had transpired to be pretty inconclusive.
About an hour later, his front doorbell rang. Answering it, a young man presented him with his own ashtray insert that had been sitting in the BMW garage. . Thanking him, Jones said “Where do you come from?”
The young man said: “I am from Lexus”.
Which car do you think Mr Jones chose from then onwards?
It is not about the product that differentiates you, but the service and the relationships you build.
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