Customers demand much more today of their vehicle repair experience, but “great customer service” is not as easily defined as, say, having clean restrooms. Truth is: Customer service is a tangible, measurable attribute. Time and again we hear the phrase “great customer service,” but what is it in real terms?
Shop owners know that the key to attracting and retaining loyal customers lies in delivering top-notch customer service, but how is that defined in everyday interactions? What does it take to teach and instill a “customer service” attitude throughout your business?
In this economy you have to be much more effective to keep customer loyalty and, ultimately, your business. And the key to this is delivering outstanding customer service.
Customer Perception Is Reality
The customer always decides whether or not you’re delivering exceptional customer service. In every case, the customer’s perception is your reality. It doesn’t matter what you as a sales manager or owner may think, it’s all about the customer’s perception. If he feels he’s had a sub-standard customer experience, then the bottom line is that he has.
Any time a customer leaves your shop feeling that he/she was not treated fairly or in the manner that he/she expects, you leave the door open for your competitors to go in and provide a better customer experience. It’s all in the mind of the consumer, the perception of the consumer. Kate Zabriskie, president of Business Training Works Inc., says, “Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.”
The customer is the most important thing in the equation. You need to deliver good customer service every day in a consistent fashion. There are tons of principles that tie into exceptional customer service. Probably the most important one is consistency. You cannot rile the troops and get everyone excited about providing an exceptional customer experience just today. It has to be ongoing.
Companies such as Nordstrom’s, Startbucks and Hilton are famous for doing this right. An independent repair shop isn’t a large company like these examples, but the principles of exceptional customer relations can (and should) still be practiced. This is something they do each and every day, and in every customer interaction. Your customer service is only as good as your last encounter. Customer contact must not only be good, but rather it must delight the customer.
One of the main things we have to consider is consistently exceeding a customer’s expectations. That’s the mantra of what we’re talking about. I call that “persuading promoters.” That’s my term because you want the customers at the end of the day leaving your place of business promoting and persuading other customers and potential customers to come back to your business.
Any of the books that talk about exceeding expectations of customer service allude to this, and those customers, now “apostles,” are going to sing a shop’s praises.
A real concern, and what unfortunately happens time and time again, is the opposite. Repair shop personnel are not exceeding expectations; they are, at best, just meeting expectations. Again, that leaves the door open to the worst thing that can happen – a poor customer experience.
Remember, in a tight economy when customers are watching every single penny, expectations of service and value are higher. They have a greater sensitivity, and a heightened desire to make good buying decisions. This extends from products and prices, down to every aspect of their experience with your shop and your people.
Bad experiences will compound very quickly when the detractors start spreading the word of dissatisfaction. It can have some long-term effects. One bad experience can spoil the relationship forever.
I use a C.A.R.E. model – Customer, Attitude, Relationship, and Exceed Expectations – in my Pinnacle Performance training. It’s far more difficult and costly to gain a new customer than it is to keep and existing one. Independent repair shops need to consider the cost of a single, disgruntled customer against what is needed to maintain the long-term value of that customer relationship. Shop owners must absolutely think long-term. It’s not just the value today, but the long-term value of keeping the customer for life.
Service Strategy Necessary
Most experts agree that excellent customer service is achieved with a three-part program that includes a service strategy, customer-driven systems and customer-friendly employees. Each part of the program must reflect the needs and wants of your customers.
Customer service is tangible and quantifiable, but for that to happen a shop needs to develop a solid customer-service strategy.
An effective strategy includes market research to determine what your customers want and need, a mission statement of where your shop is going and a statement of its values. Try writing a mission and vision statement for your company that might state something like, “ABC Repair Shop is a customer-driven organization that offers top-quality products and services at affordable prices to customers in Northeast New Jersey.” The mission and its implied customer service attitude must be presented and sold to employees for commitment and effective implementation.
There should be customer-driven systems established and employees should receive training in how to utilize these systems. The customer experience should be one that delights from beginning to end. Customers should be greeted immediately when they enter the shop and sales personnel should quickly enter into a customer-focused dialogue about the needs.
The customer should receive all necessary information in a concise and friendly fashion and the service sale should be completed to impart a good feeling about the transaction.
An employee’s attitude toward the customer should be, “I may not have the answer to your question, but I’ll find it. I may not have the time, but I’ll make it.”
Of course, an effective customer-service system can best be performed by a quality employee who has received the proper training like my high-performance sales/customer service Pinnacle Performance Program.
May The Sales Force Be With You!
Sale Away LLC
Adapted from original article as published in Shop Owner Magazine
Steve Ferrante is the CEO of Sale Away LLC and has more than 20 years of successful sales, sales management and sales training experience. Through his Pinnacle Performance sales and customer service training program, he has received national acclaim for teaching independent tire and auto service businesses how to improve customer relations and produce greater sales results. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.