Do You Have a ‘Fred’ Working for Your Company?

You may recall a post I wrote a while back about customer service and a fellow named Fred. Meet Fred: A Leader in How to Provide the Ultimate in Customer Service. I love the subject of customer service, having cut my baby teeth working in consumer lending at the tender age of 23. I learned a lot about people and treating them with respect, even when knocking on their doors to collect overdue loans.

And now that I’m an old codger at age 57 I still have a passion for customer service.

So what’s with Fred?

Fred works at my local Home Depot. I’ve spent a ton of money at this store in the past decade. Sure there are competitor stores nearby, but there’s something about this particular Home Depot that brings me back. The staff are very good, but it’s my three experiences with Fred that keep bring me back.

I had talked previously about how Fred helped me on two occasions when I needed some assistance. His laid-back, subtle humor approach, backed by strong product knowledge and know-how, showed me that some employees go beyond the call of duty when serving customers.

Witness a trip that I made to Home Depot in late May 2012.

I’d been having a growing problem with the front door handle. At random, the thumb latch would freeze, making it necessary to enter the house through another entrance. A pain-in-the-ass.

When it happened three times in one day I said to my wife, Sue, “Okay, I’m done with this door handle. Let’s go to Home Depot and buy a new one.”

When we entered the store that workday evening it was pretty dead. We went to the section that sells locks, door handles, plus tons more. We suddenly realized that we were into more dollars than we first realized. Crap.

“Okay, I’m going to find someone to help us,” I said to Sue.

Low and behold, who did I find on the next aisle but Fred! “Hey Fred, how ya doing? Can you help me with something?”

Fred sauntered over, his apron full of all sorts of gadgets. “What do you need?” I quickly explained our problem. “You’re the original home owner, right?” he said looking me in the eye. “Yes,” I replied. “The handle was contractor-installed nine years ago.”

“Okay, here’s what you need to do,” Fred replied. He then proceeded to write down the customer service at Weiser I needed to call. He said to say that Home Depot told me to call, and he explained what I needed to describe as the problem. He then drew me a diagram of how to replace the part. And then he said that if I had a problem to bring the part in and that he’d install it for me.

When I got home I phoned Weiser and within a minute they had my address and said they’d UPS the new part to me the next day.

Total cost to me? ZERO!

That’s why I shop at Home Depot. That’s why Fred rocks as an employee who knows how to solve customers’ problems very quickly and in the most cost-effective method. Two years ago I had a broken oak bannister. Fred gave me an incredibly cheap yet effective fix. He spelled exactly what I had to do and the materials (under $10).

When it comes to customer service in your organization do you have any ‘Freds,’ employees who are passionate about their job, who focus on the customer’s needs, who possess a strong knowledge base and who regularly go beyond the call of duty?

If you do, then nurture these people. Put them in leadership positions, have them become customer service trainers or coaches. Whatever you do, don’t take them for granted or let them leave your organization.

Take a moment to share a customer service story.


The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people.
– Tom Peters