I recently booked my car for a routine service at my regular authorised service center. I booked a courtesy car well in advance and I was due to drop the car off after the school run at 8:30am.

Unfortunately, I was just recovering from the flu  and was feeling very poorly (as we say in England) on the day I had to drop the car. So I called on my way to the garage and requested that I shouldn’t be asked to wait when I get there as I wasn’t feeling well at all.

As I arrived, to my pleasant surprise, Laura (name changed) was waiting at the entrance. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, we just exchanged keys and within minutes, I was driving back home.

My day was quiet – in between I received a call from Laura as she briefed me about the work to be done, which I authorised and soon after, I received a call to let me know that my car was ready to be picked up.

By that time, I was feeling a bit better and when I got to the garage, it was the showroom’s service manager who was waiting for me. Once again, we simply exchanged keys and he brought the handheld terminal outside to take the payment and handed me the invoice.

Overall, it was excellent service – my requests were all considered and car was returned duly serviced, cleaned with water and sweets. Still, as I sat in my car, I missed something. I felt dissatisfied and as if I didn’t get the attention I normally used to get.

This made me ponder as I drove back. Laura was courteous, the service was on time, no surprises, the courtesy car was ready in the morning and my car was ready as I went back in the evening – there was no waiting time. I wondered why I had this sense of feeling ‘as if I wasn’t cared for / looked after’.

It didn’t take much time for me to realise something. Laura was not the person I normally deal with. The Service Centre’s manager was not the person with whom I often talk to (I don’t even know his name) – it was always Alex.

Alex always shook hands with me and asked how I was doing, how my family was, how I was getting on with my work. He enquired about the progress I was making on my piano. He remembered seeing me working at the showroom on back-to-back calls all day long the last time I brought my car in for a service, so asked me about my work-life balance.. He wanted to know whether I have made up my mind to get a dog. If it was Christmas or Easter, he would surely ask something relevant around that season, my plans for the New Year, and even told me something new I could do, if I was interested.

It wasn’t just excellent service – Alex was truly engaged with his customer and he intimately knew key aspects of my life and had that little conversation to connect with me whenever I was there, which made me feel special. It seems he has now left, and I have this feeling and concern whether I will be looked after as I was when he was around.  Though Laura was superb and I have nothing to complain – I missed that engagement Alex had with me as a client.

I often talked about customer engagement and believed that by delivering quality service at an optimum price, one can retain customers. I was proved wrong by my own instincts when I realised that customer engagement is all about knowing your client and building that trust and comfort – and not all about just delivering a service as a transaction.

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