How a Dealership Should Hug Its Customers

Have you hugged your customer today? That's a question Stefan Schuett asks dealerships? But how does a business hug its customers? Should personnel get that up close and personal? Not literally. Rather, hugging is a customer-oriented mindset throughout the organization, says Schuett, who oversees Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies at BMW of North America LLC. It means listening, understanding

Have you hugged your customer today?

That's a question Stefan Schuett asks dealerships? But how does a business hug its customers? Should personnel get that up close and personal?

Not literally. Rather, hugging is a customer-oriented mindset throughout the organization, says Schuett, who oversees Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies at BMW of North America LLC.

“It means listening, understanding and learning from customers,” he says. It means treating them like friends, exceeding their expectations and making them feel special.

It also means collecting “all relevant information” (but never asking the same question more than once) on their wants, needs and preferences — then using that data to make them repeat customers.

Schuett says dealer principals must guard against “fragmented processes” because of the multi-department nature of dealerships.

“Everyone must be in touch with the customer in a coordinated, integrated way,” he tells the Automotive CRM 2004 forum in Los Angeles.

That goes to the essence of CRM, whether it's using high-tech tools or old-fashioned empathy.

“CRM is understanding the characteristics of the customer base,” he says. “It's a means to an end.”

But the modern technology sure helps. An example: Long Beach (CA) BMW sold 42 luxury cars in three days, “something we could never have done before having PCs on sales people's desks and ready availability of (customer) information, including financial,” Schuett says.

Achieving good customer relations may sound simple, but the key is in the implementation.

Here's how Schuett says to do it:

  • Identify customer preferences and fulfill them.
  • Let customers drive the experience.
  • Go beyond normal policy to fulfill customers' wishes, then give them more than they expect.
  • Protect customers' privacy.
  • Find out their preferred mode of communication.
  • Empower employees to satisfy customers.
  • Encourage employees to assume “ownership” of customers' problems.
  • Offer assurances that the customer's needs can be met.
  • Be trustworthy and deliver on your promises.
  • If things go wrong, make them right.
  • Have fun.
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