Last year I wrote a couple of articles on the three C’s of service writing – Complaint, Cause, Correction. And I made the case about, Consistency, Customer Service, and Clarity. I spend all day calling dealers and talking with them about their problems and how to resolve some of them. I also still do a little onsite consulting and every time I visit a dealership having customer service issues, I see the same problems. The main problem I believe is lack of training and identifying what customer service is and how to resolve problems. When problems arise most employees will choose one or more of the following approaches:
1. The Ostrich – I call it this because the employee will stick their head in the sand and hope the problems will go away. They will not return customer calls and will not inform the customer of what is actually happening. This usually ends in the customer verbally chewing off all their feathers until they get satisfaction.
2. The Manning – This one is when multiple employees are trying to cover up a problem or issue and they pass the customer around like a football from employee to employee hoping the customer gets tired of calling back. This is usually the case when multiple employees have made a mistake and they are trying to cover for each other. This also happens quite often when employees do not want to bother with a problem because they see it as a distraction to them working with their current customer and making money right now.
3. The Tony Danza – Do you remember the ’80s show Who’s the Boss? This scenario is usually an escalation from the Manning or the Ostrich. The employees will pseudo escalate the problem by taking a message for a manager but not actually passing the message to the manager. Managers and owners are sometimes culpable in this by telling their employees to screen off all calls and by not returning messages. I have actually seen this go as high as the owner of the business getting messages and then reverting back to the Ostrich.
We all make mistakes. It is the human element in us. Mistakes like breaking a customers unit or not ordering a part on time are all resolvable issues. If your employees, or you as an owner, try to take one of the approaches above when you are at fault, it will create animosity between you and your customer. Many times the customer knows you have made a mistake, they know you are giving them excuses and it never ends well for your business in the long term.
The Samurai have a rich history in honor and they used to perform Seppuku, which is a form of suicide by knife in the stomach. This kind of thing must have taken a very special kind of person with a very special strength to perform. The questions I have for you as an owner or manager of a department are: Do you have the strength and honor to admit when a mistake is made?
Do you give your employees the leeway to admit when a mistake is made? Do you train your employees how to handle customers when there is a problem? Do you attack the problem head on or try the above scenarios because you fear the immediate financial ramifications and ignore the long term effect on your business?
It is a different world out there right now. Google reviews and social media allow customers to share experiences that they have had with your business. If an employee makes a mistake, don’t beat them up about it. Show them that the problem can be fixed and teach them how to fix it. I have often heard from customers that they are not upset that the business or employee made a mistake, but rather they are mad that the business tried to cover it up.
So do want your business to be known as a Samurai with honor and distinction or an ostrich that sticks its head in the sand and hopes for the best? The reputation of your business is not just built on how you handle the good transactions, but more importantly, how you handle the bad ones.
C.R. Gittere and the Service Manager Pro team specialize in service department efficiency, elevating customer service and increasing department profitability. His monthly column focuses on best practices and unique ways to get the most out of your service department. More information about Service Manager Pro can be found at www.servicemanagerpro.com.