Auto Laundry News - February 2013

Customer Service — A Critical Key To Success, Part III

By Sharie Sipowicz

We started our customer-service discussion in the December issue of Auto Laundry News with a look at the importance of customer service. Last month, we examined what it takes to provide good customer service, and offered some suggestions on how to deal with unhappy customers. This month we consider good telephone skills and conclude with a suggested do-it-yourself business-evaluation checklist.

FROM THE TOP

If you are an absentee owner, you should still be directly involved in solving all of the complaints. Sure, your manager has the authority and the capability to solve customer complaints, but as the owner, let the customer know you care by writing them a personal letter of apology. If a refund is involved, write a personal, not a company, check; it does wonders.

It is important to remember that a mistake does not have to be made in order to let your customers know you care. The ultimate sign of caring is to do something when they least expect it. For example, send a thank-you note with a free car wash coupon to a good customer. Design a car-care newsletter with helpful tips on how to care for customers’ vehicles between details.

WATCH THE TELEPHONE

The telephone is another area where business people make mistakes. There is an old axiom, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is especially true with the telephone and applies not only to how you answer the phone, but also to what you say and how long it takes to answer the phone.

When the telephone rings, it is your chance to make a good first impression. If it is favorable, you have a
better chance of getting the business. If it is not, then you will lose it. Customers will not patronize a business with rude employees.

Here are some helpful telephone answering hints:

  • Answer in a friendly tone, giving the name of the business, your name, and an offer to help.
  • They need to “hear” your smile.
  • Give the caller your undivided attention and answer all their questions.
  • If the caller is upset, do not interrupt. Let them say all they have to say.
  • If a call back is necessary, make sure it is done in a timely manner.
  • Always ask if it is okay to put the caller on hold.
  • No matter what happens, be polite at all times.

WHAT CUSTOMERS THINK

How your customer thinks of your company’s service will make or break you. The best advertising cannot offset unfavorable word-of-mouth comments. Consider this: If a huge portion of your detail business is referral and word-of-mouth driven, how much is your business hurt by those customers who never complain openly?

The Customer Service Institute’s checklist suggests these questions to do a business evaluation. They also provide a quick look at how a customer sees your business, how they feel about doing business with you, and their decision to continue patronizing your business.

  • Do customers know who you are and how you are listed in the Yellow Pages?
  • Is the person answering the phone knowledgeable in all aspects of your services and pricing?
  • Can customers get through on the telephone 95 percent of the time?
  • When customers call to complain are they treated with empathic phrases and concern?
  • Is your service level at least 90 percent compared to other detail shops in the area?
  • Do you survey customers regularly to see if you are meeting their needs?
  • Do you follow-up with customers after they have complained or had problems to make sure they were satisfied with the way you handled the situation?
  • Are you really providing the kind of customer service that you as a customer expect?

There is no excuse for not paying enough attention to customer service. Get out of your office or out of the bays and take a look at what your operation has become. Ask yourself if you are giving your customers the attention they deserve.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at sharie@detailplus.com.

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