Customer Service Triage

Running a dealership can be crazy. It's easy to forget the reason for being in business in the first place customers.

Running a dealership can be crazy. It's easy to forget the reason for being in business in the first place — customers.

When this happens, dealers move into a reactive behavior mode performing essentially, Customer Service Triage — racing from one trauma to another.

Proactive customer service check-ups can help dealers can ensure their customer handling processes are being used consistently and properly.

Minimally, customer service check-ups should take place every quarter and should cover every aspect of customer handling, from the moment a customer walks in the showroom to service and parts, to post-sales support and marketing. Ask, “Are we truly putting our customers, our greatest asset, first?” These check-ups should be comprehensive, but not complex, and generally follow these five steps.

Make customer service part of your business culture.

Every employee, starting with the highest level of management must treat customer service as an integral part of his or her job. Customer service should be as routine as breathing, using a cell phone, or grabbing the first cup of coffee every morning. It doesn't have to be elaborate to make an impression, and often it's the small things that customers remember.

Respond quickly and personally.

Dealerships should respond quickly and personally to every customer. Are sales teams calling the customer to check on their satisfaction with the dealership? Has the service department called to set up a service appointment? Being proactive with customers is as important as reacting to their concerns and questions. Check established processes that are set up to capture every interaction so future customer inquiries can be responded to quickly and with accurate information.

Communicate proactively.

Communication is essential to keeping customers. Keeping customers informed about the status of their vehicles — whether a new car on order, or one being repaired — is critical. Customer handling processes should clearly define steps to take if changes occur that can impact customer satisfaction. If a customer's car may be delayed, let them right away.,

Are systems automated to provide newsletters with dealership and manufacturer updates, news and other information? Is the customer data on file used to prospect based on family milestones where purchasing a car may be considered.

Appreciate your customers.

Processes should show customers they are welcome and appreciated from the moment they are greeted throughout their experience. Check to be sure processes outline how to capture their data, identify their need, and link them with an associate who can help them purchase the car or services they want. Are simple amenities provided like coffee, water and a pleasant seating area? Do we keep a basket of toys handy just in case children come along with their parents? Fewer distractions result in a more positive experience and ultimately in more sales. Most important, do we thank the customer?

Ask for customer feedback.

Are we sending customers postage-paid response cards or e-mails surveys asking about their experience? How often is their input invited? What happens to the feedback that comes in? Are customer appreciation functions like workshops and private showings scheduled? Is data from these events captured and used for additional feedback?

Quarterly customer service check-ups not only allow dealers to evaluate their customer service and customer handling processes, but enables them to see if these processes are being used consistently. Armed with this data, dealers can make intelligent decisions on how to improve the customer experience, instead of dealing with customer traumas.

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., and works with both sales and service on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.

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