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Automotive Service Management Newsletter
Vol 3, No 2, April 2009

Memorable Customer Service Best Practices

In my newsletter last month, I talked about how the term "customer satisfaction" does not really define what we need to accomplish long-term customer retention. I suggested that we needed to create a "memorable" experience for the customer so when it was time for the customer to need the types of products or services we sell, we would be their first choice.

To follow up on that idea, I wanted to share some best practices that I have found to be very special in the last 22 years of my working with the hundreds of service facilities and thousands of employees through workshops and in-facility support. I do this with the spirit of inviting you to share any of your "memorable" customer service practices that I could add to this list that would include the name of your service facility, your name and city/state/country, as these newsletters are read by folks worldwide.

I have found that "memorable" customer service comes in two flavors - one being created on the organizational level for everyone to use and those created by individuals to define their own unique customer service style. Some of the examples are going to seem like little things, but many times it is the consistent, little things that make the biggest difference.
There is one catch to putting any of these best practices in place - if you ever take them away, it can be worse than never having them at all. Customers don't like it when they receive something special and it is not there in the future. They can feel cheated and that is a negative memory that can be very hard to overcome.

So let's start on the organizational level:
  • Though these are not in any order, I would say this is the #1 way to create a "memorable" customer experience - well trained, knowledgeable, friendly employees! Your employees are the #1 customer buying decision and create the reality for the customer to decide if your shop is a good place to do business. You may want to review the ASM Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 12, Managing the Points of Customer Contact, which discusses the importance of your front line people for customer retention.
  • Proper staffing to minimize customers having to wait too long for service or having to find a person for assistance
  • Greeters to assist customers at write-up by starting the RO, answering questions, getting coffee, etc, can be regular staff from other departments trained to assist during busy times
  • One of my favorites, sell the customer a T-shirt with the name of your company/logo for $10, give them a 10% discount for service and parts when they return wearing it
  • Complimentary multi-point vehicle inspections that is listed on the RO with a price, $39 or $49 for example, then listing it as a no-charge to create a value added item but it can be sold if needed for folks as new car inspections
  • Topping off fluids, especially window washer fluid while the customer is watching
  • Free wash and front vacuum
  • Buy 3 or 4 oil changes, the next one is complimentary
  • Comfortable customer waiting area that includes wireless Internet connection
  • Free, monthly car care clinics to teach about car care basics and repair concerns
  • Coupons available if the customer doesn't have one
  • Accepting out of date and coupons from competitors, remember you just pulled them out of the market when you accept those coupons
  • Coffee and donuts in the write-up area
  • For dealership service departments, free programming of remote keys, remember that customer just paid several hundred dollars for that little device
  • Service reminder follow-ups via email and/or regular mail with coupons
  • Vehicle pickup and delivery for repairs and services
  • Shuttle delivery and pickup
  • Placing seat, floor and steering wheel covers on the vehicle while the customer watches
  • Clear signage throughout the facility for easy navigation
  • Adequate, easy to navigate, clearly defined parking
  • Convenient hours and days open that support the lifestyle of the folks in your area
This next group consists of actions I have seen or learned about that are done by individuals in their jobs:
  • Good eye contact, smiling and friendly keeping things on a relaxed level
  • Good at describing why the service or repair is needed in customer friendly terms with visual support
  • Going out to the car with the customer to verify the symptom or part requested
  • Accurate prices for repairs that include all parts, labor, shop supplies and fees that match at the cashier station
  • Business card includes cell phone number for contact 24/7, anyone that I questioned about how many times a customer calls at really odd hours has stated that it might be used 2-3 times a year and it is a true emergency
  • Personal, handwritten "Thank You with your name" on the customer receipt
  • Walking the customer to different parts of the facility
  • Giving out pet treats
  • A candy jar at the workstation for anyone
  • Go to the $1 store and buy a bunch of little toys for the kids, it really helps the parents during write-up and check-out
  • Quick free installs of wiper blades, lights or anything similar
  • Personal follow-up call or email by the advisor after service, especially on a hard repair
Well, this is a start. I hope you have some special things that your facility does for the customers that create a "memorable" customer experience that you don't mind sharing and want added to this list.

Copyright, 2009, J. Daniel Emmanuel,

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