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The Anatomy of the Perfect Customer Greeting

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During his frequent travel for business, Bob Nigra often takes note of the chaos that ensues at airport check-in kiosks.

In his mind, those impersonal, electronic kiosks often represent customer service at its worst. In the experience of Nigra—the general manager at Scott Honda in West Chester, Pa.—customers typically crave human interaction.

“What if I’ve got a question? Make me feel good about it,” Nigra suggests. “Make me feel comfortable that the tag is going to be on my bag, and it’s going to get to the right place.

“Imagine standing at that kiosk, and you can’t find that information. It can be frustrating.”

All those trips to the airport have helped Nigra realize the importance of having his dealership employees warmly—and promptly—greet customers upon arrival. And, by ensuring that his staff greets clients enthusiastically (by saying “Good morning, how may we assist you today?” to typically start with) Nigra has helped Scott Honda win the President’s Award five years in a row, producing a glossy 93.7 CSI score.

“I think human interaction,” he says, “is certainly one of the things that builds the relationship and makes the customer feel comfortable.”

Nigra, a veteran of more than a quarter century in the auto industry, has no shortage of things to say about what makes for an ideal customer greeting. And, he recently shared those thoughts in a conversation with Fixed Ops Business.

 

“Find employees with a passion.”

A prerequisite with regard to perfecting customer greetings is hiring “glass half full” people, Nigra says. In that respect, he has been served well when hiring former waiters and waitresses.

“You’ve got to find friendly, smiley-faced people that are upbeat and positive,” he explains, “that just want to help people … and really understand what the goal is. Finding those positive, approachable people, that’s the most important thing.”

Nigra demands that his employees at Scott Honda—which boasts a daily car count of around 100 in the service department—are always eager to answer clients’ questions.

“Quickly acknowledge customers.”

Scott Honda always has multiple greeters in its service lane, ready to welcome clients as fast as reasonably possible. After all, even repeat customers at a dealership may not have visited the facility for around six months, and might be a bit lost as a result.

“My valets and greeters approach everyone within seconds of their arrival, and greet them with a pre-written work order from the day before,” Nigra notes. Customers “get a printout of their tire tread, (and) they get acknowledged by a friendly person. And, a handoff to the service advisor happens shortly after that.”

“Give every employee a role.”

Nigra doesn’t necessarily expect salespeople to spend 10 minutes pointing maintenance customers in the right direction in West Chester. He does, however, expect them to point customers toward an ideal staffer to answer their demands.

In such situations, Nigra hopes to hear the following: “Let me get somebody to give you a hand; I can’t address your issue, but let me get somebody that can.

“It’s no different than when you go to a restaurant and there’s no greeter to seat you. How do you feel? You feel uncomfortable.”

So, “no matter what department you’re in,” he says, “there are no walls. Everybody greets everybody. And, if you have the logo on your shirt, you’re on stage.”

“Read customers’ body language.”  

It’s paramount to treat customers with compassion when they arrive at your dealership—especially after they’ve had a fender bender, Nigra says. In those cases, he wants his staff to show an exemplary sense of empathy.

Additionally, if greeters note that a customer is markedly upset, they’re instructed to consult with an on-duty manager or assistant manager who can then troubleshoot for solutions.

“Those assistant managers have a podium; they sit together and oversee the entire operation,” Nigra explains. “So, if there’s somebody that needs special attention, they’re easily available.”

“You need a nice, clean environment.”

A proper greeting can play a key role in getting customers to want to return to your facility, Nigra says. And that’s rather important these days, as dealerships rely on their fixed ops more than ever, due in part to lagging vehicle sales throughout the industry.

As a result, Scott Honda has a Starbucks-like cafe that serves coffee, pastries, soup, pizza, and sandwich wraps. But those amenities serve a larger role, in Nigra’s opinion: it’s key in making customers comfortable upon arrival to a dealership.

“The customer has to feel good,” he says, “and invited into your home, if you will—like they’re truly a guest.”

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