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December 2017
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Service sells
Garry Bartecki
Garry Bartecki

Times change and at a very rapid rate as you know these days.  Business, health, career and all other aspects of life keep changing because of globalization of the business world, technology and health care advances.

As a result of these rapid changes customers or contacts keep having to adjust their approach to issues and responses to deal with problems. In short, things are changing so fast that a lot of folks don't really understand what is happening any longer and really appreciate all the help and understanding they can get.

That being said, and keeping in mind the scenario laid out above, I have to believe that customers place a premium on above average service or at least a service level that helps them understand the transactions they are involved in. I know I pay for that level of service and bet you do to, when you can get it.

When it comes to business we often hear about offering superior service. But saying you have it and actually delivering this level of service are two different things. And even if you do feel you offer superior service, how do you know you do unless you check if your customer’s assessment of your service is the same as yours? As they often say at the management seminars, "Don't expect what you don't inspect.”

I don't currently run a store like you do but I do enter into a lot of transactions and, as a result, some drive me nuts while others leave me without any negative feelings, which is a good thing.

If I have to prioritize customer service on a general level, I would say:

·         Make communication easy.

·         Use proper consistent language when discussing transactions.

·         Prepare clear bid and or invoicing documents.

·         Deliver what you promise or at least call to say you are not.

·         Follow up as necessary.

·         Educate your customers.

·         Provide cost effective products or services.

·         Offer state-of-the-art service levels.

It is amazing how firms do a terrible business just answering the telephone....or have a phone system in place that is just a pain in the butt to deal with.  Don't believe me?  Then try and call in to your place of business regarding a sale of equipment, a part sale, a service call or a rental call. If you get through within 30 seconds give yourself a passing grade. On the other hand, if you had to talk to two or more people before you arrived at the department you were calling for - you fail.

The same goes for phone systems where each department has a direct line but apparently no humans to answer the phones.  And even if they have voice mail you don't hear from them for a few days.

If I wind up on the "wait list" I prefer and appreciate the voice that says you can leave a number and you will be contacted in the order the calls were received. Those return calls usually are returned within 1.5 hours and in many cases they estimate how much time it will take to call you back.

Customers also want to know what they are paying for, not only for their own knowledge but also to explain to a superior or the AP department when it comes time to paying the invoice.

How do your bid docs look?   Are they dummied down enough so they are easily understood with calculations that make sense without a lot of punching your phone calculator? If not, you have a customer service problem.

I attended an AED service seminar one day and the speaker suggested a very detailed bid doc with any estimated cost for each segment of the work. I liked what I saw and after he explained why he does it, I liked it even better.  He breaks it out so that if there is a dispute both sides know what they are talking about in dollar terms for that segment of the work.  It turns out that an adjustment of one segment of the invoice is always a LOT smaller than a 20% adjustment of the entire invoice which people seem to do to start out with.  A 20% price reduction is about half of your overall GP on the invoice which when compared to a 20% adjustment on 20% of the invoice producing a much better result for the dealer.

I would also suggest tracking equipment to follow service techs on their routes. Also mobile billing options to get customers to agree on an invoice when the tech is present in case questions come up.

There is a real opportunity now to educate customers about telematics and what information they provide in terms of operating and ownership costs.  If you don't do it your competitors will and in the process take your business away.

When we get right down to it every contact with a customer is an opportunity to offer superior service.  How are you doing in this regard?  If you need to find out then have some secret shoppers call your place of business and then report on their experience. 

It is also important to know that this is an EDUCATIONAL PROCESS that allows you educate your staff and employees.  None of your employees intentionally upset customers and probably would welcome the opportunity to learn how to do their job better.

Garry Bartecki is a CPA MBA with GB Financial Services LLC. E-mail editorial@mhwmag.com to contact Garry.

 

 
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