Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Does Anything Ever Go Wrong?

As much as we hone our technical skills, as much as we study and implement good customer service practices, sometimes things just don’t go as we planned. When you are faced with a situation that you couldn’t have possibly anticipated is when you are put to your most important customer relations test. I need to stress here that the importance of the score you receive on this test is unlike any you have ever taken in your life.  Forget about numerical scores. Forget about A, B, C, D or F. Forget about any bell curve you have ever been measured on. Your score for each and every one of these encounters, and there will be many, will be either PASS or FAIL. Period! There is no middle ground. There is never any middle ground.

Please understand that the success of you as a person or “you” as part of a business will depend on the accumulated scores you have received over an extended period of time. That’s why this is such an important concept for us to grasp. Think about it. Everything that you have done to enhance your career, every effort, every class, every obstacle you have overcome to get to where you are now has, in part, been the cumulative result of all those scores. …. I would ask that you indulge me for a moment and please read this paragraph again. I really want you to get the point.

Anytime you “touch” the customer, you are getting one of these scores. Even if you had no direct contact with them; even if you never saw them, you got a score. The “work” you did filters out to the customer. You may never know it. Your boss or manager may not even be aware of it at the time it happened. Somewhere that score was recorded and, slowly, over time, all those seemingly insignificant instances start to add up for you and/or your business.

Here’s what it looks like. Some “scores” just come up and smack you in the face. You receive an unsolicited compliment from your boss, the service writer, one of your peers or even directly from the customer. At least one of them has recognized your incredible skill-set, speed and accuracy of your work or even the ability to solve a problem that others couldn’t. As a reminder, I just want to point out that you have created an impression on both the “internal” as well as the “external” customer that we spoke about in the first article of this series. Score a PASS for you.

I’m going to bet that all of you are familiar with what a FAIL looks like. These are the scores that most of us have been on the receiving end of because it is just human nature to let someone know when you are unhappy with something or someone. People “expect” good service or a quality product. Frankly, they have every right to. They are less likely to “call out” or call attention to something they already think they are deserving of. It is expected. ….  I can’t change that but I hope I can help you understand that it is just part of being who we are. Here’s a way to get your head around it.

Most of us work very hard for our money. We don’t want to waste it or spend it foolishly. I said this in an earlier article, but when it comes to auto repair, your customer really does not want to, and did not plan to spend their money at your shop today. They surely would have rather used it towards paying the rent, buying groceries or maybe going to the movies. If you can understand that, then you are beginning to understand why delivering nothing less than your best effort and best attempt at outstanding customer service is so important. You are sort of starting out in a valley and need to finish up on top of the mountain in order to turn that customer’s reluctance to being in your shop into satisfaction that, as long as they had to spend their money, they are happy they came to you.

For the purpose of this discussion, my background in sales in the automotive industry came as an outside salesperson for a warehouse distributor who sold to auto parts stores who in turn sold to repair shops. While I was in “outside” sales, you are in “inside” sales where you are dealing directly with the consumer who has called or come into your shop. The basis of either side of the sales line has always been delivering goods or services to the “customer” in a timely and honest manner. Obviously pricing is in the equation as well but many times you will not be able to have a direct influence on that. Let’s deal with what you can affect.

I want to leave you this month with a way to start thinking about all those “touches” you will have with customers and the “grades” you will receive. Here is an admission. No matter what anyone ever tells you or whatever book you have read or seminar you have attended, it is absolutely impossible to achieve a PASS 100% of the time. People are simply people, and you will never be able to please everyone. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be trying. I’m simply saying that sometimes, in spite of your best effort, it’s just not going to happen.

So, let’s look at some numbers.  This thought process came from running sales territories for many years. Whenever I would hit a “dry” spell (several FAILs in a row) it would get me feeling disappointed with my efforts and I couldn’t project that disappointment to my other customers.  I had to figure out a logical approach and here’s what it was (transferring it into “repair “terms).
 You go to work every day and, assuming there is a steady flow of work through the shop, you are going to do “X” number of jobs or have  “X” number of customer contacts for the day. I’m going to pick a round number in order to make this illustration easier (particularly for me). Let’s say that number is 10. Some of you are going to do way more and some way less. That’s why I’m picking the number.

OK. 10 jobs a day. If you work 5 days a week (Calm down. Some of you work more or less. Just go with me.) 10 jobs times 5 days gives you 50 jobs per week. Times 50 weeks a year (Be happy. I just gave you 2 weeks off.) equals 2500 jobs a year. Of those 2500 jobs or “contacts”, so many of them are going to earn you a PASS and so many of them are going to result in a FAIL. I’m going to pick another number. Let’s say that 80% of them are going to be PASS and 20% FAIL. That means that you’ll get 2000 PASSes! Good for you! However 500 of them are going to deliver a FAIL.  Another fact. They are not going to be evenly divided. It’s not going to be 5 PASS and 1 FAIL. You could get 5 FAILs in a row.

Before you let the quality of your next service be negatively affected by your recent string of FAILs think about the numbers. If you were able to string several years of numbers together on a spreadsheet (I did. Guilty.), you will find those numbers are probably about the same each year. So, here’s the way I began to think about it. If I found myself halfway through the year and all of a sudden I was in a FAIL slump, here’s what I said to myself. “Got that one out of the way. 257 down and only 243 more to go!” See, you have to approach each job (touch) with a clear mind and not let “other” events ruin your “new” customer’s experience with you. 

They deserve the best and you deserve a positive outlook.

Here’s to many more PASSing grades.

© Bill Rosenberg
BillR Services, LLC