Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Understanding Customer Service

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you are reading this you are probably involved in the automotive repair business and the owner, manager or boss of some nature has “suggested” that this should be required reading. How am I doing so far? …. 

OK. That’s what I thought. I’m going to make another prediction and that is that you’re probably already a pretty good tech and you know your stuff. Right about now, you’re probably starting to ask yourself “How does he know all that?” I’m going to give you an answer you might not be expecting.

You’re a pretty valuable person. Not only to yourself and your family but to where you work and that’s what we’re going to address here. Let’s look at it this way. There are two sides to having a job. In its simplest sense, your company has an expectation of receiving value for the dollars they are paying you and you have an expectation of being paid for the time. However, nothing is ever that simple. It is a complicated relationship but I am going to give you the answer that gets us going. The reason I “know” you’re a good tech is because your company has made the decision to help round out your experience which increases your worth, no matter where you go, by enrolling you in classes and “asking” that you read this column.

They wouldn’t do that if they thought you weren’t worth it. They wouldn’t waste their time or money on you if you couldn’t do the job. You are not employed by a charitable institution. They are in business to make a profit for themselves and in order to do that, they need technicians who can earn that profit for them.  If you were not that person, you wouldn’t be there. …. How’s that? …. So read on!  

As we get into the topic of sales and service I would like to create two distinctions in the “sales” category and then illustrate how it flows seamlessly into the “customer service” category.

First sales: Most of us think about sales as taking care of the customer that drives in off the street. For the most part you would be correct. That would be the “external” customer. But there is another customer you need to consider first and that is who I call the “internal” customer.  Not to get too deep here, but briefly, the internal customer is everyone else you work with. Unless you are the sole proprietor of a business, you have internal customers.
Here’s an example. If you are in a large shop with many techs and service writers all working in their own “areas”, you all have to work together as a team. That means that the person handing you the work order or transmitting it to you on a tablet has to get everything right on that form. All the details, all the notes and comments the customer made when they brought in the vehicle need to be there if you’re going to have a chance at doing your job correctly.  Then the person you hand off your finished job to, if it’s the tire guys, the detail people or back to the service writer, they need you to have done your job correctly and completely. You are the “customer” of the person that gives you the job and the person you give it to is your customer. If you are happy with the information on the work order and the person who receives your work to carry on the flow is happy with what they got from you, then everyone is happy, including the “external” customer we weren’t even talking about yet.  …. You may want to read that again.

So now let’s talk about the “external” customer. Here again, nothing is simple. We are all customers when we go out and consume anything. It could be buying gas, clothes, dinner, movies or taking a vacation. We are consuming all the time. What you are going to find the more you read my writings is that in order to understand what is required to take care of that external customer and keep them happy and coming back, you are going to have to rely on your own experiences as a consumer to guide you in delivering that higher level of customer service. In other words, treat the customer like you expect to be treated if the situation was reversed.  

I’m going to ask you to step outside your job and think about how you felt during your last purchase at the …. fill in the blank …. .  Were you happy or were you muttering to yourself?  Go on, you can do it. Was your mind not thinking about what a great person that was who took care of you or how lousy it was when you had to hunt for someone to help you and when you finally found them they gave you the wrong advice? It’s not hard. You get these lessons all the time. NOW, all you have to do is turn your mind back into your business and relate it to how you treat your customers (internal & external). What would their opinion be of their last contact with you or your work? …. I’m just sayin’. 

The one thing I will not accept is making excuses that one particular business is different from another when it comes to customer service. That you can’t relate what went on at the dry cleaners or the doctor’s office to the automotive business. Yes, the nature of the business can definitely be different but I can guaranty that when you break it down to the most basic fundamental, it will all come down to the opinions we form about customer service. It is my contention that there is only one way to pursue it.  I hope you will join me in these monthly articles as we explore proper sales practices and quality customer service.

© Bill Rosenberg

BillR Services, LLC