Who pays our salary? I often wonder when I hear stories from clients about their experiences at dealerships and also from sales professionals attending our APB University.
I typically tell them this story. A pilot had a regular route from New York City to Toronto. One day, a few passengers asked if they'd be able to see Niagara Falls on the trip. The pilot said they flew over it but it might be hard to see, but he'd do what he could.
Part way into the flight, as they approached Niagara Falls, he announced that they were near to the falls and that he'd be tipping the wing ever so slightly to give passengers a better view. The passengers were ecstatic and applauded his effort. This pilot knew that his salary was paid for by the passengers behind him.
Clients typically have five basic expectations from companies they want to patronize:
- A feeling of being valued
Understanding who pays our salary, even if indirectly, should motivate professionals to continually find new ways to perform better. Ongoing education is one way to do this and many programs, such as APB University, can make a difference. The challenge is to find ways to do things differently every day, to always be on the lookout for ways to meet or exceed expectations and delight the client.
When something creates a problem or the “same old way” simply isn't working anymore, performance or the status quo drops. Traditional problem solving attacks the issue by identifying what caused the problem, seeking out ways to fix it and then returning to the status quo. The cycle then repeats.
What if every day you get out of the box and do things differently? What happens when creative thinking and problem solving is applied? This approach focuses on solving the problem creatively, indirectly and often unconventionally. It not only fixes the problem but changes the status quo.
For example, McDonalds experienced a drop in sales of its kids' meals as the country began to focus on nutrition. Rather than simply add new toys, pour money into advertising, and target a new generation of parents (traditional means), the company thought sideways and added healthy choices to its meals.
It changed the status quo, forced competitors to quickly adapt or leave the market, reconnected with existing customers, and attracted an entirely new group of health conscious consumers.
The Moment of Truth
Jan Carlzon who turned around SAS airline in 12 months credits his success to finding Moments of Truth.
In talking to customers, he learned that if passengers put down seat-back trays and found coffee stains overlooked during the pre-flight cleanup, they concluded the airline was careless about its engine maintenance, and opted not to patronize it again as a safety issue.
Carlzon discovered humans tend to take specific experiences and generalize them. This is the power of first impressions. Specific experiences — how a phone is answered, the tone of voice, waiting time, mistakes, coffee stains — influence individuals' decisions to purchase from, stay with or leave a dealership. While this seems irrational, it's quite common.
The question is then, what are your dealership's “coffee stains”? What specific experiences have your prospects and clients had that led them to conclude that your dealership is not where they want to do business?
Challenge your teams to work with you to find the coffee stains at your dealership. From physical appearances to processes to how clients are greeted to paperwork, wait time, and amenities. What might result in negative perceptions?
Once identified, ask your team for creative ideas and discuss how everyone can do things differently.
For example, if a client needs to pick up their dry cleaning and but their dealership paper work or repair job isn't quite done, take them to pick it up. Simple changes and initiative often have the greatest impact with clients.
Focus your teams on doing something differently every day to ensure the five customer expectations. Track their ideas, hold them accountable for applying them, share results and adopt the best ideas across the dealership.
For example, give your clients a feeling of being valued by celebrating their purchase. Take their picture in their new car, frame it and hang it in the dealership for a week, post it on your website, add it to your Facebook page, and send them a framed copy with a personalized thank you note. A simple change like this can reinforce a positive experience and help build loyalty.
There is no magic dust that can keep a dealership ahead of the status quo or guarantee that every client's expectations are fully met. However, encouraging creative thinking and problem solving, identifying and eliminating your coffee stains, and doing something differently everyday to meet expectations will work wonders
What are you doing differently today? I'd love to hear your ideas. Send me an email.
Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., a firm with more than 42 years experience working with both sales and service on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits through personnel development and technology. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.
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