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Reaching Peak Customer Satisfaction

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In the past, I have identified a problem and presented the solution that has worked for us. This time I would like to discuss the most noticeable problem we have: communication with our customers. Unfortunately, when it comes to our communication issues, we have not yet found an all-inclusive solution. Don’t get me wrong, we have procedures and scripts on dealing with customers and issues, but most of the time, it seems like we are speaking a different language than our customers.

The first thing I should say is that we communicate well with more than 90 percent of our customers.  But the 10 percent that take up most of your time are always the ones you remember. My name and number is printed on every customer's invoice. I want to know what we did wrong and hopefully hear when we exceed our customers’ expectations. But truthfully, I only hear about the issues. When I was trying to determine where we failed it came down to three things: We do not consistently pay enough attention to the customer during the write-up process, we speak over our customers educational level, and we are unable to convey the expectations for the repair to our customers.  

We have become so busy that when a customer drops off a vehicle for repairs, our advisors assume way too much. They have been doing their jobs for so long that they start each repair believing they know what the customers issue is just by the type of vehicle they drive. If the customer confirms their assumption, they just stop and deal only with the main complaint without asking if there are any secondary concerns. We have tried to address this by adding more people to the service drive and changing to a tablet system for the initial write up in an effort to force our advisors to spend more time with each customer. But when there is a line in front of the advisors, I know we will only follow the procedures before people start complaining about the wait and the advisors revert back to their old ways.      

Then we have the problem with talking to each customer like they are a technician. My advisors and body shop estimators spend all day talking with technicians, warranty companies and insurance adjusters about the repairs needed on the vehicle. So, when it comes time to explain something to a customer, they explain it the way the technician explained it to them. Unfortunately, most customers have no idea what parts are required to fix any of their problems and most of them don’t care. We have been working on this issue and have added additional people who are not as technical with their wording to talk with customers. But the truth of the matter is as our new people learn more about the repairs, they are subject to start using more of the technical words and we will be right back to square one.

Then we come to setting expectations for our customers. Five years ago, it was pretty easy to just drive onto the service drive, have us look at your concern, and have your vehicle repaired that day. Currently, we average about 10 days before you can get an appointment and sometimes even with an appointment, we are unable to look at your vehicle that day. In an attempt to combat this, we put 70 loaner vehicles into to operation. We try to let people know what our workload looks like when they are dropping off their vehicles. Sometimes this is hard when they had scheduled an appointment a week ago but the technician got stuck on another person vehicle and probably won’t be able to diagnose and repair their vehicle at the time of the appointment. So, we put them in one of our loaners to drive until we can get their vehicle into the shop.

Finally, I would be remiss if I don’t discuss my shortcoming when dealing with customers. As most of you know I was in the Army and Kansas Army National Guard for just over 28 years. The Army drilled into my head that we really only need to discuss the facts. This gets me in trouble with several customers. First off, by the time they reach me, they are already pissed and most of the time I do not know why. I look up their history and try to piece together their experience, but I look at most things as black or white. Most of our customers see me as unsympathetic. This is an issue for me and I have been trying to consciously change the way I come across especially over the phone. To prevent me from making things worse, I have my warranty administrator talk with most of our upset customers before I get involved. She does a much better job than I can at calming people down and understanding the emotional part of their experience. For now, we just have to be happy with the improvements we have made and continue to push for the elusive 100 percent customer satisfaction.

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