Someone becomes your customer because you have what they want at a price they are willing to pay. The exchange of value includes not only the product or service, but also the experience. Your store and your people need to be at the minimum acceptable, but you should strive to have a team that people perceive to be desirable to do business with. Whether someone moves from first-time purchaser to an active and engaged customer depend on:
• Their expectations
• Your performance
• The consistency of your performance
A Fantastic First Customer Experience
Steve Barrington has relocated to a new town and needs to get his bike serviced. Not knowing where to go, he inquires with other riders in the area and a store is recommended. People rave about the fast, courteous and expert service. Steve also checked out their very professional website where he easily found the service department hours of operation and phone number. The newly relocated motorcyclist also reviews many positive customer testimonials on the site. Satisfied, he immediately calls to make an appointment.
The phone is answered on the second ring, and he speaks to a polite and professional person, who, upon learning he wants to speak with service says, “My pleasure. Let me connect you to our top-notch service advisor, Paul Starr.”
This is different, he thinks.
Within moments, Paul Starr lives up to his introduction. He is knowledgeable, polite and efficient. Within moments, Steve is scheduled for a while-you-wait oil change and safety inspection, given easy-to-follow directions to find the dealership and instructions on where to go and what to do upon arriving at the store. He is also presented with an offer to get an email and/or text with the specifics as a follow-up.
When the customer arrives at the appointed day and time, he is met in the parking lot by Paul Starr, who is neatly dressed, polite and as helpful in person as he was on the phone. He introduces himself, shakes hands and calls the new customer by name.
Paul moves the motorcycle carefully into a numbered space and invites the new customer to follow him to the write-up area. While on the way, the customer is engaged in pleasant conversation about his relocation and what he likes about the area.
The write-up area is neat and professional. The wall behind Paul displays the latest chrome accessories, as proudly as the Louvre boasts the Mona Lisa. Large glass cases protect a selection of high performance cams and ignition modules, positioned like marquis cut diamonds on felt blankets, holding tight the promise of thrilling motorcycle rides to come.
In short order, the customer’s information is captured, and as Paul starts to come around the counter, a neatly dressed technician is seen walking quickly and with certainty to the exact space containing the new customer’s motorcycle.
Paul leads the new customer to the front of the store, and while he does, he gives him a quick overview of the store, its history and its current mission. The customer is given a brief orientation of the store (new bikes here, classics there) and is shown the customer lounge while given a fresh cup of coffee. Every dealership person encountered is warm, friendly and welcoming, interested in the new customer and how they could help.
Within an hour, the bike is finished. The service done according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and then some. The bike was cleaned and the fuel was even topped off. Paul retrieves his new customer from the lounge and leads him enthusiastically to the write-up desk, where the work order is reviewed, extras explained and the check-out is done in moments. Contact information is exchanged, riding areas suggested and information about an upcoming event is communicated as Steve is led to his motorcycle. Paul then starts the motorcycle for his customer, who rides off under the his watchful eye.
Twenty-four hours later, Steve receives a personal follow-up phone call from Paul (not some third party survey service), who is upbeat during the call, quickly touching on some personal information shared when they met (your baseball team won!) and checking to make sure the motorcycle is operating as it should. The service advisor also reminds the new customer to come to the customer appreciation night on Thursday, where he’d be happy to introduce him personally to the dealer principal.
Some months later, Steve calls back to schedule another service. This time, the person who answers the phone is abrupt, puts him on hold for 10 minutes and then disconnects the customer while attempting to transfer him back to the service advisor. After calling back and being made to feel as if he was the reason for the disconnection, the customer finally is connected with the service department. He finds his friendly, professional contact no longer works there. He tries to arrange another while-you-wait oil change. Now, he’s told there is a two-week wait. Must be the busy season, he thinks.
When the appointment time comes, no one meets him in the parking lot; the place he parked last time is occupied by a dealership truck. He finds his way to the unattended service desk. After waiting for five minutes, a scruffy, brusque person asks, “What do you need?” Steve says he made a while-you-wait oil-change appointment, to which the service person laughs and says, “We don’t do while-you-wait work.”
The customer then has to make arrangements for a ride and to leave the bike until later in the week. When he comes to pick up the bike, the bill is more than he thought, the bike is out in a line up, crammed together with at least 50 other motorcycles, and It’s dirty.
Steve once again thinks to himself: This is different.
This is a story of significant inconsistency — a great first service experience and an awful second. Typically, unless there has been some serious event (loss of key personnel, economic crisis or ownership change), business don’t erode this far this fast. I wanted to contrast these two fictitious scenarios to make a dramatic impression. Certainly, inconsistencies like ineffective call management, service changes (no more while-you-wait) or an obvious decline in interpersonal relations would have a material effect on consumers’ willingness to return. And I would argue even seemingly small inconsistencies — no beverages, no outside greeting or a less-than-effective write-up — all negatively color customers’ experiences. And inconsistency in business is far too common.
Whether you perform to, exceed or don’t meet a customer’s ideas of what they’re going to get when dealing with you is dependent almost entirely on what has happened prior to them interacting with you. So just where do customers’ expectations get set?
First and foremost, customers form their perspectives from what others say about you — both online and from personal recommendations. Customers also form expectations of your dealership and staff based on what you say about you. Your advertising messages, your online presence, everything. If you boast incomparable customer service or the most knowledgeable staff in the business, you better be able to deliver. There is also a twist on this idea — what we say customers say about us. These are the testimonials we post. They can be very convincing. However, there is a growing school of thought that says if all of the testimonials are glowing, and there’s never any mention of problems, they are less believable.
Finally, customers form their expectations of you from their experiences with other retailers. When you go to Subway for a sandwich, you know the level of service and quality of food you’re going to get. You know how to order, where to stand and when to say, “More pickles, please.” (They’ve trained you to know this, after all). When you deal with FedEx you can even choose the level of service, and they’ll even come to you to pick up your package. It may not be fair, you say, to compare your dealership with the shipping mainstay FedEx, but customers do. Just like when FedEx guarantees delivery by 10 a.m., customers trust that is going to happen. When you say the bike will be ready by Friday at 5, they expect it to be so. I don’t make the rules; I just tell you how the game gets played.
Now what? Next time, we’ll measure and evaluate your performance to achieve consistency. For now, answer this question: do you match, meet or exceed customer expectations?
An award-winning author, top-rated trainer and founder of Peak Dealership Performance, Mark Rodgers holds a master’s degree in adult education and the National Speakers Association Certified Speaking Professional designation — only 500 people in the world have this coveted recognition. Contact [email protected] to improve your performance.