Service: We're All in the Business
of Satisfying Customers
Many still disagree about the definition of detailing. But there
is one thing that is true for everybody in business: We're all in
This month, I do not wish to delve into the intricacies of value
and process. Let's give those subjects a brief rest and consider
how we can provide better customer service and really satisfy our
Customer service is satisfying customer needs and exceeding their
expectations. When you perform a detailing job for a customer you
should return a vehicle when and as promised and at the price promised.
This all sounds simple, but your own experiences should tell you
that good customer service is rare. When was the last time you had
a problem with a product or service and you had the
problem resolved quickly, courteously, and to your satisfaction?
How many times have you asked yourself if anybody cares?
Think about your customers. What do they think about your customer
service? Would they cite their experiences with you as a shining
example of what customer service should be? Or would they be less
than enthused about dealing with you and your employees?
Earlier this month I visited a web site called allbusiness.com,
which offers free advice to small businesses. It is well worth a
visit. In an unattributed article on this web site, the authors
stated that there are ten rules to customer service:
1. Commit to quality service
2. Know your products
3. Know your customers
4. Treat people with courtesy and respect
5. Never argue with a customer
6. Don't leave customers hanging
7. Always provide what you promise
8. Assume customers are telling the truth
9. Focus on making customers, not making sales
10. Make it easy to buy
These points make sense, and their application to any vehicle
service business is quite appropriate. Remember that most of your
new business comes from referrals and your current customers are
repeat customers. As a result, keeping your customers satisfied
ensures a steady stream of repeat and new business. You cannot survive
without good service.
COMMITTING TO QUALITY SERVICE
The first commandment of business is to provide value to your customers.
The second commandment is to value your customers. You show your
commitment by respecting and being courteous to your customers.
Each of your customers believes that his or her business is important.
You must reinforce the customer's belief and believe it yourself.
When you respect your customers you learn to
understand their needs and seek to find ways to satisfy those needs
relating to the services you offer.
This sounds suspiciously simple, but beliefs are fragile. Any misadventure
with anybody in your shop can sour a customer's attitude toward
your shop. As a result, everybody in your shop must commit to providing
the highest levels of service. This means that you should empower
your employees to provide service. In short, make good customer
service a responsibility shared by everyone. This also implies that
everybody should be able to provide service without seeking approval.
Yes, there are limits, but everybody should be working to make the
customer's experience with your business pleasant.
MAKING THE COMMITMENT
Who should make the first commitment to quality service? Well,
that person is you! You set the example for everybody else in your
shop. If you do not provide the highest levels of courtesy and respect,
why should anybody else? As a result, you must be the example that
everybody emulates. When your staff sees you do everything possible
to ensure that a customer receives outstanding service, then they
can learn from you. What are some things that you can do to ensure
the delivery of satisfaction?
Keep Your Promises
Very few people intentionally break their promises. The problem
is that many people promise more than they can possibly deliver.
Two weeks ago I needed to have the ball joints replaced on my van.
The shop manager promised me that they could have the job done in
two hours. I brought a book. However, the job took over seven hours.
Parts were delayed and related services were temporarily unavailable.
The result: I was irritated that a two-hour job became seven. The
manager promised two hours. As I
observed the work process, I realized that the job could have been
done in less than two hours, but when the various processes failed
to mesh, delays s-l-o-w-e-d things down. Do I believe that the manager
intentionally lied? No. He just promised performance over things
he could not control.
The moral of this story is that it is wrong to make well-intentioned
promises if you cannot guarantee that the promise will be fulfilled
in all of its terms. When you commit to providing a service, make
sure that you can deliver. It is better to commit to a longer time
span and deliver earlier (exceeding expectations!).
Make Sure the Customer Always Wins
When you must disappoint a customer, make sure that the customer
gets something extra for free. In the story above, the manager realized
his error and apologized for making an unreasonable promise. During
the course of the day I was offered the use of the manager's car,
a transmission flush at cost, and a free oil change. The manager
was trying hard to make sure that I would not leave angry. Of course,
giving away services hurts profitability and by making unfulfillable
promises he got himself into this situation. At least he realized
that my satisfaction was important. Will I do business again with
this company? Certainly.
Concentrate on the Customer
The good folks at allbusiness.com state that it costs six times
as much to gain a new customer than to maintain an existing customer.
This makes sense. And customers bring in new business. AOL spends
over $70 to get a new Internet account, and if an existing account
refers a new customer the existing account gets a month's service
free. This only serves to show that keeping a customer is probably
the best investment you can make.
Resolve Problems Immediately
Do not let the customer wait for a resolution. Take action now.
If you cannot fix the problem immediately, then tell the customer
how the problem can be resolved. Commit to the resolution immediately.
Just make sure that when you resolve a problem that you have resolved
the customer's problem. When you discuss resolution, rephrase the
customer's complaint and then express the resolution in those terms.
Then ask the customer if the resolution satisfies the customer:
Did you solve the problem? In addition, make sure that the customer
feels that he or she has "won." Over 70 percent of customers
will do business with a company with which they have had problems
that were solved in their favor. Does arguing get you anywhere?
Don't Argue with Customers
Keep your cool. Let customers express their feelings as they
explain their problems. Afterwards, you can ask questions regarding
details. Don't turn a complaint into a shouting match. Listen, rephrase
the problem, ask questions, and find out what the customer wants.
When you offer a solution, outline at least three action steps:
What you can/will do now;
What you will do in the near term;
What you will do to ensure satisfaction in the long term.
Remember that you are making promises, and you must deliver on
those promises. If a customer is worth keeping, you may sacrifice
a little to gain a long-term relationship, but if a customer wants
too much, know where to draw the line. Sometimes you must say "NO!"
- just don't say no in anger or in the middle of an argument.
REWARD GOOD SERVICE
Remember that I stated the importance of your being an example.
When you see somebody in your shop providing good service, reward
that person! Look for opportunities to reinforce
desirable behavior. Rewarded behaviors are more likely to be repeated.
MAKE IT EASY TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU
The last point this month is probably the most obvious. Reduce
the hassles and you will produce smiles. When you remove the guesswork
and ambiguities from the services you offer, your customers will
have a better idea of what to expect. When a customer has a firm
expectation of what he or she will receive, then meeting - and hopefully
exceeding - that expectation is much easier.
When you structure your business to provide value and exemplary
service, everybody wins. The customer is satisfied and will recognize
the value received. The stage is set for repeat business and positive
referrals. As you consider your New Year, resolve to ensure that
service leads everybody's list.
John Lamade has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing
products and is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact
John via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org