It took eight rings before the phone was finally answered. Out of breath, and in a barely audible voice, someone said, “Don’t Bother Me Auto Care” (Obviously, not their real name, but they might as well have said that). I replied, “This is Joe Marconi; is Harry in?” “Hold on” was the response as the phone dropped, banging against the wall a few times. As I waited for Harry, I could hear the hammering of the impact guns, the air compressor and not-so eloquent language from the guys in the shop. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I hung up the phone. Are you wondering what shop I called? Was it yours?
As a business coach, I spend a lot of time speaking to other coaches and shop owners from around the country. The above encounter is one that I hear all too often. I can tell you from my experience that this is a direct link between the success of a company and the people taking care of customers. The wrong people in customer service can kill a business.
As a business owner, you spend a great deal of time and money building your company. You invest in marketing campaigns for the purpose of attracting new customers, ensuring your existing customers return and making the phone ring. But the best promotions in the world mean nothing if the people answering the phone or on the service counter do not deliver world-class service.
Every contact your company has with a customer or potential customer, known as a touch point, can either make a positive or negative impression. From the initial phone call scheduling an appointment to the car delivery process, every touch point with a customer must make a positive impression on your business.
All positive touch points are wins for your business. Make a negative impression and watch out! You can lose a customer faster than you think. The really sad news is that most unhappy customers won’t reach out to you—they just won’t come back. In today’s competitive climate, you cannot afford to lose a customer because of a negative customer experience. You have too much invested in your shop—and let’s not forget the money invested in advertising.
By the way, I’m not ignoring the work done on your customer’s cars. Quality repairs are a key component to your success. However, the customer’s overall experience with your service personnel is a determining factor in your success or failure.
Getting back to the phone issue: In fairness to many shops, there are a lot of well-trained advisors that do an excellent job on the phone. But there are times when that seasoned advisor can’t get to the phone. And, because of protocol, or out of habit, an untrained employee answers the phone. This is when things go wrong. We all know how frustrating it is calling any company and getting the wrong person on the phone. If that’s happening in your shop, you’ve got to fix that.
It all starts with the proper customer service training for all your employees. And phone skills must be at the top of your training list. Many shops have phone systems that will answer the phone after a certain number of rings and an automated message will respond to the caller. Generally, I’m not a fan of automated phone systems. But unless you can guarantee that the phone will always be answered by a trained person, you need to consider a phone system.
Another great training tool is to record phone conversations. Recording phone conversations will help you identify any problems and fix those problems before they hurt your business. You, the shop owner, should also call your own shop from time to time, or have someone mystery call or visit your shop.
By the way, everyone and everything in your shop is part of your marketing plan. It’s what we call “internal marketing.” The right employees, the right culture, and a clean, organized facility will do wonders for your business. Dollar for dollar, it’s the best advertising money can buy. Internal marketing is virtually cost free with the potential for a big return.
And here’s the most important tip:
Make sure your shop adopts the mindset that the world stops when a customer calls on the phone or steps up to your service counter.
I did call back “Don’t Bother Me Auto Care” and managed to get Harry on the phone. I asked how he was doing. He replied, “I’m still stuck here. How do you think I’m doing?” Harry is struggling with his business. Can you guess why?