Customer Service Starts with Going that Extra Mile
In a busy auto repair shop environment, the process of maintaining and repairing vehicles tends to dominate everything else. But think about it for a moment: are those vehicles your customers?
Of course not! The owners and drivers of those vehicles are your customers, and the type of experience they have while interacting with the people in your shop is the key to:
- Their satisfaction with your service
- Whether they will be back the next time they need repairs or maintenance
- Their willingness to leave reviews that help your shop gain new customers
Customer service is the responsibility of everyone in your organization, from the owner down to the part-time employees. All it takes is one negative interaction to turn off a customer for good, leave a negative review and hurt your overall business.
Customer service starts with you
Customer service is best seen as a philosophy, one that is supported by example, starting from the top. Employees will model good customer service behavior if they see it coming from the boss. This customer-focused philosophy must be maintained and encouraged through all the actions of the organization.
Policies and procedures must be flexible enough to accommodate customers’ needs. Think of it as a long-term investment in the future of the business. Getting customer service right, and creating a customer-focused culture in your shop, requires planning, training and constant reinforcement.
Here are some tips on how to make it happen:
1. Make the customer experience relaxed and easy
Car repairs make drivers stressed and worried. Put your customers at ease at every opportunity, and at every touchpoint:
- Be nice, and smile
- Make it easy for customers to work with you
- Respond sincerely to their concerns
- Reassure them about the repair process, how long it will take, and the cost
- Have a single point of contact, so the customer only needs to communicate with one person for information during the entire repair process
- Transparency and explanation go a long way to build customer trust
2. Establish flexible boundaries for customer service
This is where direction from top management, plus a comprehensive staff training effort, makes your customer-centered approach come alive. Start with a thorough discussion of what your customers require, and how you can provide it to them. This can include:
- Making the intake process quicker and more efficient (pick-up and drop-off)
- Cost-efficient transportation options for customers who can’t wait in the shop
- Frequent communication with the customer as a job progresses
- Up front and honest conversations about delays and complications
- A final review with the customer of what was done, showing them parts that were replaced and how that translates to the bill
You’ll also need to determine just how far you will go to satisfy the customer, especially when things go wrong.
This is the true test of your customer-focused culture. A certain amount of flexibility here will pay big dividends.
3. Create a pleasant environment for those who wait
Your waiting area should ideally be a place where your customers are happy to hang out. It should be attractive and kept tidy, set up for those who need to work or relax.
Preferably it should have high-speed internet, soft lighting, comfortable chairs, some desks, or counters, and high-quality coffee, drinks and snacks. Having clean bathrooms is also a major plus. All of these things tell your customers that you care about them.
4. Reward your staff for success in Customer Service
Customer Service can’t be the responsibility of a single person. It needs to be the foremost concern of every employee. The best way to make it work is to give the entire staff permission to say “yes” and resolve customers’ problems on the spot, within the suitably flexible guidelines you have established.
Analyze your shop’s performance and come up with some measurements to track your progress in customer service. These can include the number of customers satisfied (ask your customers to leave detailed reviews), the number of compliments to specific staff members, the percentage of customers willing to recommend the shop to others, etc.
Hold a monthly or quarterly meeting and give meaningful awards, such as gift cards, to both the entire staff and outstanding individuals for going above and beyond in customer service.
5. Put it all together to create a friendly culture
When you have the right processes, a customer-focused staff and facility, and customers who understand and appreciate your culture, your shop can achieve a higher level of success. The result will be happier customers, more repeat business, increased referrals and a more positive attitude across your organization. It’s a win-win!
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