Do We Really Appreciate Our Customers?

I have spent a lot of time both as a consultant and a service manager watching how service personnel interact with customers. The overwhelming thing I have noticed is that we seem to treat customers as an inconvenience in our day. Our customers want to develop a relationship with us. How many of you will drive past a similar service provider to go to some place where you feel like you have a relationship with a specific person? Your customers want to do the same thing.

I often see customers standing in a service write-up area with a confused look on their face not knowing where to go or what to do. We need to remember that our dealership is not like the local grocery store that they go to once a week. If we are lucky we will see a customer once every 6 months, or in some cases, once a year. We need to make sure we have adequate signage to direct people and ample staff to make sure they are welcomed. Every customer should be afforded the “10-foot rule.”  If any employee comes within 10 feet of a customer, they should offer their assistance. Have you ever been somewhere and been annoyed because too many people tried to help you? Probably not. Customers should always be escorted to wherever they need to be, whether it is the lounge, parts department, rest rooms or whatever. Pointing that the lounge is that way or parts is around the corner just further shows that we don’t have consideration for the customer. Everyone has a busier lifestyle than they used to and value their time more than ever. We need to make sure we value that time, as well.

The use of computers has been a great thing for our business, but it has also become a barrier between us and the customer. I often see Service Consultants using their computer screen as the thing that alienates us from the customer. Many consultants sit at their computer and do not maintain any kind of eye contact with the customer while they are frantically banging away on their keyboard. We need to spend more time with the customer in their comfort zone, which is right beside their vehicle. The customer is going to be much more at ease in the write-up area next to their vehicle than standing at a consultant’s desk with a line of people behind them. They will also be much more likely to purchase additional recommended service because they don’t feel the pressure of saying yes or no with an audience behind them.

Undivided attention is another area of concern when it comes to appreciating our customers. When the customer is in front of you, they are your primary focus. Technicians, co-workers, Service Managers and others are all a secondary concern when you have a customer at your workstation. Paying attention to what is happening around you is another thing that tells the customer they are just not that important to you.

As I mentioned earlier, customers want to have someone they can build a relationship with. Too many times I hear people tell their customers what they “can’t” do for them rather than what they “can” do for them. Whenever you think you can’t do something for a customer, try and think of what you can do for them instead. Example, “Mr.Jones, the manufacturer does not cover defects in your tires but what I can do for you is to contact the respective tire dealer on your behalf. I’ll let them know you have a concern and get you a person to contact at the tire dealer to see if they can resolve your concern for you.” You have just shown the customer what you “can” do rather than what you “can’t” do. This is a good relationship building tool that shows the customer you have a real concern for their issue even if the resolution is out of your hands.

As a rule, the only thing a customer knows that their vehicle needs is an oil change. They look to the service consultants and dealership staff to guide them in what else their vehicle needs. We are doing a great disservice to our customers by not at least recommending the bare minimum maintenance that the engineers that designed the vehicle say needs to be done. A customer needs to be made aware at the time of write-up what is recommended and at the time of re-delivery reminded of what needs to be done at their next service, along with a detailed explanation of what was found on the multi-point inspection.

The multi-point inspection is another area that is commonly rushed thru and the customer is given vague information. I often hear “Your tires are good at 6/32″ and your brakes are at 7’s.” What does that mean to a customer? 6/32″ out of what? 19/32″, 13/32″? Brakes at 7, what is 7? 7 out of 10, 7 out of 20? Customers need to have the results explained in terms they can understand. It is very important to keep the customer informed about how the wear is progressing. Remember that 75-85% of work sold on a vehicle is sold thru the wheel-wells. Selling the green is essential to showing the customer that we are not just here to sell them something and that we have a genuine concern for their vehicle and themselves.

The last item I need to discuss is 2 words. THANK YOU! Those 2 words should be the last thing a customer hears as they leave your dealership. I don’t know how many times I have seen a customer leave the service area without those 2 words being said. It sounds simple, but how do you feel if you leave a business and don’t hear those words when you have spent your hard-earned money with them?

The next time you are in a place of business, think about whether they appreciate your time or not and make sure you appreciate your customers’ time.

Written by Keith Ullrich

The items discussed above are just a fraction of what we train and discuss at M5 Management Services. Please feel free to contact me at 608-279-7895 to discuss how M5 can help you and your dealership improve your processes and take it to the next

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