Upside of Complaints

A customer complaint is an opportunity, but one that many dealership personnel pass up. So says Christine MacKenzie, who tracks customer satisfaction as vice president-corporate research and reporting for DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group. Missed or muffed chances can damage profits, even though many dealership complaints are easily resolved by an apology or giving an unhappy customer a chance to vent,

A customer complaint is an opportunity, but one that many dealership personnel pass up.

So says Christine MacKenzie, who tracks customer satisfaction as vice president-corporate research and reporting for DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group.

Missed or muffed chances can damage profits, even though many dealership complaints are easily resolved by an apology or giving an unhappy customer a chance to vent, she says.

“The best information can come from a customer complaint,” she says. “But it is essential to have a follow-up process to quickly address complaints.

“Often the remedy is a simple fix, but how often does that happen? Yet the repercussions are disastrous if customers are not satisfied with our actions. It can really and truly affect a dealership's bottom line.”

Ninety-one percent of unappeased customers relate their grievance to family and friends, while 66% say they won't return to the dealership, she says.

In a Customer Care Alliance survey of unhappy automotive customers, 91% of whom said they wanted their vehicles fixed properly (“I'm surprised it's not 100%,” says MacKenzie), only 28% said they got what they wanted.

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said they wanted an apology yet only 7% got one. Sixty-two percent said they wanted a chance to vent; only 4% got that.

MacKenzie says that since the launch in 1997 of the Chrysler Five Star dealership quality program, those certified dealers have consistently maintained higher customer satisfaction scores. In turn, they have seen higher retail sales, returns on investment, employee retention and net earnings.

The Five Star program uses quality-control processes to improve sales and service.

Participating dealers must document compliance, with annual core performance requirements consisting of high scores on customer-service satisfaction, sales satisfaction and fix-it-right indexes.

Certification also requires regular facility inspections, upgrades, employee training and follow-up contact with customers.

MacKenzie says: “Facilities have to look decent. People have to be trained so they understand what they need to do — a challenge because of high turnover at dealerships. Employee morale has to be high, which is easy to say but hard to do, again because of the turnover rates.

“And customer follow-up is so important, as is the measuring of it. Otherwise how can you tell? Five Star dealers survey customers to find out what they think, listen to complaints and respond quickly to fix them.”

Often the Remedy Can Be a Very Simple Fix
Remedy — Automotive What they want (%) What they received (%) Difference
Product repaired/service fixed 91% 28% 63%
An apology 67% 7% 60%
A chance to vent 62% 4% 58%
Source: Customer Care Alliance Study, Sept. 2003
TAGS: Dealers Retail
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