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Margie Seyfer

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Nearly 20 years ago, Margie Seyfer overheard a receptionist at her husband’s repair shop answer the phone and was appalled.

“She was just awful,” Seyfer says.

Motivated by the receptionist’s abysmal phone etiquette, Seyfer put together her first customer service training program, Lip Service First Class Telephone Skills. Soon after, Seyfer founded Impact Presentations, her company dedicated to providing clients with intensive training on topics related to customer service.

Since she founded the company in 1994, Seyfer has provided customer service training to hundreds of shop owners across the country and has presented for numerous industry organizations, including the Automotive Service Association (ASA), WORLDPAC and NAPA Auto Parts.

Seyfer recently spoke with R+W about all things customer service, including investing in training, catering to customer personality styles, garnering referrals and navigating comebacks.   


How do most owners view customer service training?

Here’s what I have happen a lot. A shop owner will say to me, “You know that telephone skills class you do? I want to send some of my people to that. Where are you doing that next?”

My response is that I always ask them, “Will you be there?”

They’ll say, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Why should I give up a night? Why should I give up a weekend?”

Sometimes a shop owner will be an owner for so long they think they don’t need to get training, that they don’t need to be in a classroom situation anymore. Nothing is further from the truth.

Effective communication starts with the owner, and the way the owner communicates with employees in that business is exactly the way those employees are going to communicate with the customer. So goes the leader, so goes the group.

The increased level of customer service within a business from the shop owner attending training with his or her employees is the single most important thing that an owner can provide.

I recommend to my owners that if you want the training to stick, you need to be in the class.


How should shop owners and employees recognize and cater their service to the different personality styles of their customers?

I was certified to teach the DiSC personality assessment over 20 years ago. Dr. John Geier, a former behavioral scientist at the University of Minnesota, developed the assessment.

There are four specific behavioral styles: D-i-S-C.

The “D” is the dominant style. They have a lot of confidence and a pretty big ego. They have an air about them that when they walk into your business, they’re very sure of themselves.

“The very first thing to do whenever a customer is telling you their story is to zip your lips and just listen.”
—Margie Seyfer,
founder and owner, Impact Presentations

They are results driven. When you’re interacting with them, it’s important that you keep it brief. You ask them what they want to hear. Do they want to know everything you did on the car, or would they just like the bottom line? And these people are all about bottom line. They do not want a lot of detail.

The second one is “i,” or the influencing style. The way you identify them is they immediately start telling you personal things about themselves. They want to talk and talk. They need more time with you, and if your phones are ringing off the hook, if you have a lot of customers, they will feel like you’re rude to them.

The “S” style stands for steady. And the steady style is very calm, easy-going, friendly, and they’re 40 percent of our customer base. They are people-oriented, as well as task-oriented. Now the “S,” their biggest fears—we need to apply this to being a customer—are being pressured, and direct conflict.

Because they don’t want any kind of conflict, their favorite word is yes.

They are the customers who say that they’re going to bring their car in, but they don’t show up. Or they call the shop’s voicemail in the middle of the night, and say they had something come up and they won’t be in. It’s important not to oversell an “S,” because they do not want to be pressured into anything.

The last style is the “C,” the conscience style. They are very analytical, accurate and precise. They are task-oriented, not people-oriented. Similar to an “S,” if you oversell a “C,” they are gone.


Does understanding your own personality style help you provide better customer service?

Yes. We pretty much know what we are. We know what our strengths are, but any strength overused automatically becomes a weakness. Instead of ratcheting up, we need to ratchet down on our style.

Say a service advisor is a “D.” He wants to go fast, and he thinks that the customer should get it, because he’s so confident.

But if he’s dealing with an “S,” they don’t want to feel pressured. The best thing for him to do is slow his rate of speed.

He should ask them lots of questions, and let them do the answering.

They’re going be more interested in how he’s going to take care of them in the future, because for an “S,” it’s all about stability and security, not the bottom line.

Once they feel that they can trust you, you have them for life.


Once you’ve built that trusting relationship, how do you encourage your loyal customers to refer more business to your shop?

I think the main things that are overlooked are the little-bitty details that make the customer experience memorable in a positive way.

And part of that is the follow-up—the follow-through afterward. It’s asking them who referred them. Too often we forget about the customer who is in our database.

Let’s say that Helen referred her daughter. The best thing for us to do is get that information into our database, and then send a handwritten thank-you note to Helen.

The note encourages her to do more of the same. And of course, you should always include a business card whenever you write a thank-you note.

Similarly with a new customer, give them two cards, because what we’re saying to that new customer is, “I know you’ll want to keep one for yourself, but you’ll want to give one away, too.” It’s a subconscious thing. We don’t have to say, “Oh, please give this to one of your friends.” We don’t need to do that. She’ll get the message.


Even if you do everything right, the occasional angry customer is inevitable. Any tips for handling comebacks?

The very first thing to do whenever a customer is telling you their story, whether it be on the phone, which is most likely the scenario, or in person, is to zip your lips and just listen.

When we interrupt their story because we’re so smart, all it does is trigger more anger in the customer.

The next step in handling a comeback is to ask permission to just repeat what you think you heard them say.

Most of us don’t do that, because we think that we already know.

The only way we can communicate with an angry customer is to get them off Mars, where they are when they’re angry, and down to Earth, where we can communicate with them.

Ask if you can repeat their complaint: “May I repeat what I think I heard you say?”

They’re always going to say, “Yes,” because they want to make sure you got it. You repeat back, and ask if that is correct, and then the next thing you do after that is you simply apologize.

A lot of shop owners think that if they apologize, it means that they are admitting to being wrong, but that’s not true. By simply saying, “I apologize for the inconvenience of this happening,” it deflates the anger and makes the customer realize that you’re there for them.

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