Monday, March 13, 2017

The Devil Is In The Detail

The saying "the devil is in the detail" refers to a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details, meaning that something might seem simple at a first look but will take more time and effort to complete than expected. (Wikipedia)

What makes your customers choose your shop to do business with? Do you have the best technicians? Are you in a convenient location for them? Are you the “brand” dealership? Are your prices the best in town? Are you just easy to deal with? All those questions, and as many more as you can think of; there’s not just one right answer and one answer is not necessarily better than the other.  The fact is, the answer really is buried in the details.

As we go about our lives of being “consumers”, we are subjected to hundreds of details every day that form and mold our buying habits. Was a particular employee in a business you visited really kind and patient with you? Were they friendly and courteous beyond your normal expectation? Was the business well stocked and had everything you needed. Did they tell you there was a sale on the item you brought to the register when you weren’t even aware it was on sale? Did they promise to be there at 9:00AM and actually were? Did they call you by name? Did they thank you for your business?

To complicate matters a little, what makes a customer happy one time may not seem to matter 3 months from now. You can’t always chalk it up to “they’re having a bad day”. I’m going to let you in on a really big secret. They’re human, just like you. Consider this. You have no idea what frame of mind they’re in when they walk into your shop. You don’t know if some wise guy just cut them off 2 blocks from your location or if they’re dealing with a health issue OR if they got up feeling great, stopped at their favorite coffee shop and are enjoying their perfect cup of morning coffee.

And they have no idea what you are dealing with either. Was an important part for a big job left off your morning delivery? Did the last customer give you grief and blame you for their radio not working when their car was in for struts? The point is, neither of you can ever know for 100% sure what’s going to be on the other side of “Good morning!”. The only way to approach that customer striding towards you is to clear your mind of what was on it 2 seconds ago and commit to doing everything you can to make that person’s encounter with you as pleasant and reassuring as you can.

Before you go off all sure, sure, easy to say, but not very practical or possible, let me remind you of the title of this blog. Go ahead. Check. ….. Correct! It’s in the details. Everything you say or do might be the turning point of each and every encounter. And that could be positive or negative. That’s why you have to be totally focused on the customer in front of you. Besides the verbal communication going on, what is their body language saying? Is there a smile on their face? Do they seem pre-occupied and in a rush? I know you thought you were a Technician or a Service Writer but I doubt anyone ever told you that there was a degree in psychology you all got somewhere along the way. (Congratulations!)

The best way I can explain this to you is to ask you to go back in your mind and think of a few of those instances when you yourself became a dedicated customer of “xyz” company or store. Somebody did something for you that clicked in your mind as having been above and beyond the call of duty and you instantly committed your loyalty. Although we have all had those moments it seems they are easy to forget as time passes and your loyalty slips into habit. I’m not saying that “habit” is a bad state. It works to the benefit of both the customer and the business. The customer is always expecting a good experience and the shop is honored with their business.

There is a slippery slope to this process and it is truly buried in the details. You and your customer can go along for years and everything seems to be going just fine. Then one day you detect a slight change in attitude from your longtime customer or maybe they miss a service appointment or maybe you just don’t see them again. Did they move or did they take their business elsewhere? You may never know. Part of the problem is there are generally only two ways a customer deals with a “perceived” slight, insult, shoddy job or service. They either tell you about it or they take their business elsewhere. Your longtime customer may say something to you the first time or maybe even twice. After that, it reverts back to the basic human instinct of “fight or flight”. If you serve me a bad meal, I’ll pay my bill, leave and never come back. If you serve my wife a bad meal, she will tell you about it instantly. You want my wife for a customer. At least she will give you a chance to correct the error. Not me. And the bad news for you is that there are more of “me” out there than her. Sorry.

You never know what outside influence is working on your customer. Who did they become friendly with? What story of excellent service did they hear from a friend? Where did they stop out of necessity or convenience one day to have the same service you usually provide them and find these people, who didn’t even know them, did “X” that really impressed them? You have zero control over what happens outside the walls of your shop. None!

But the one thing you can absolutely control is what goes on in your shop. I don’t care if you are the technician, owner, manager or service writer. You all depend on each other to keep the customers happy. Their happiness keeps your paycheck coming. How you contribute to the effort depends on what your job is. You may never even speak to or see the customer. The customer may never be aware of what you personally did. They may never know that you made sure all the clamps were tightened or the excess dirt and grime were wiped away. All that matters is that your combined group effort made the customer happy and kept them coming back. You see, the devil IS in the detail!

© Bill Rosenberg

BillR Services, LLC