“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This is such a poignant quote (by Maya Angelou) and it is extremely relevant in the automotive service industry. It’s important to ask ourselves and our customers; “How do our customers feel when they do business with us?” Of course we have to be competitively priced, offer convenient hours and services, but we also must ensure that all employees who come in contact with our customers are equipped with the interactive skills necessary to make sure their experience is memorable in a positive manner, from the first impression to the end of each transaction.
Recently, I saw a trinket on a service advisors desk (pictured left). The sentiment embossed on a mini-traffic cone was: “Service may vary according to my mood and your attitude”. While a sense of humor is essential, there is a fine line that when crossed, turns humor into a potentially offensive, alienating message. Keep in mind that service customers are oftentimes experiencing anxiety due to the issues they brought the vehicle in for you to resolve. They are concerned about how long it will take to get the vehicle repaired, how much it will cost, will their budget be able to accommodate the expense and if the work presented is really necessary. These anxieties can grow to disproportionate levels if left unattended. To intentionally feed the customer’s uncertainty and stress by displaying alienating messages is not acceptable.
The service advisor is the “face” of your business after the sale. The advisor must be cognizant of the impression he/she makes when interacting with customers. In a recent M5 Newsletter article “Here I Am – Acknowledging Our Customers” by Mike Stein, Mike relays his experience demonstrating how he was received by an advisor that did not know if Mike was a customer or not. That experience is quite an eye opener on a first impression. In order to ensure our first impressions are positive, the entire service team needs to be educated and spot checked on a specific process designed to make each customer interaction positive.
The dealer management team can start by developing a process with defining the role each team member is to fulfill when interacting with every customer. The operator, cashier, porters and advisors should all have clearly defined expectations, in writing, regarding this process. The management team must be diligent in monitoring the customer experience through mystery calls/visits, customer surveys, follow up calls and focus groups. These means of monitoring are helpful but the most useful means of monitoring is simply observing and listening to the interactions throughout the course of business on a daily basis. If any deviation from the established process is observed, it must be addressed immediately and the behavior corrected.
Each team member must be held accountable for their part of customer retention and customer satisfaction. “How do our customers feel when they do business with us?” The answer to that question is a tremendous factor in sustaining and growing our customer base. When displaying any item in an area visible to customers, look at it from a customer perspective and ask “How does this make our customers feel?”. If there is any question of potential offensiveness, it should not be displayed.