Last month I talked about how the needs and expectations of the customer should define the boundaries of good customer service. We discussed how anticipating a customer’s needs can take your dealership’s service offering to a new level. Once we secure the trust of the customer and persuade him that we have his back, he is less likely to cede to the siren call of the cheap PM or the lower rate of a competitor.
This month I want to expand on the subject of customer expectations, and how they extend to far more than the relationship the customer has with your service technicians. Every person in your dealership that has the occasion to interface with a customer is given the unique opportunity to build their own brand of customer loyalty and trust. The sales department is always looking for these connections, as you would expect. We discussed the service department’s unique opportunities last month. But there are several other departments that have an ability to add weight to the customer loyalty scale.
In our own dealership we have a couple of suppliers for which we, as customers, willingly play the role of advocate. During the time when we were negotiating our first deal with one of these vendors I asked the supplier to include a certain clause in the contract assuring us of our rights to cancel the contract for ANY REASON within the first year. I had also asked this of every other company vying for the business. Everyone else we had spoken to had responded with either a resolute no, or a watering down of this request to include certain conditions or a longer time frame.
We asked this vendor to include this caveat just like all of the others. Instead of employing denial, or launching into a negotiation, he simply asked why we would require such a one-sided proviso. We gladly explained that we had been through two prior vendors in the last eight years who simply did not perform as agreed. In both cases, proving the vendors ineptitude was an arduous procedure, and was predicated on several points of subjective reasoning. Extracting ourselves from these contracts was a long and very difficult process. For these reasons, we did not want to be tied to a contract for another 5-year term if for any reason our new provider could not, or would not deliver what they had promised.
The supplier listened without interrupting, and then asked if he could excuse himself so that both he and his manager could consult with each other regarding our request. We agreed. After a short break he returned and offered to include the provision in our contract without alteration or negotiation.
We inquired as to why they would allow this when none of their competitors would even come close to accepting this condition. It was then that the supplier said something that resonated with me. He said, “Because, we want you to be a CUSTOMER FOR LIFE. This is important to you. You’ve been disappointed and mistreated. We get that. If we can’t prove our value to you in a year….then you have every reason to fire us. We said we understood your needs. We said we could meet them. Since we are dedicated to never losing your business, we should be able to let YOU decide whether or not that job is being done.”
Over the years, many people have told me what I tell customers all the time’ “We appreciate your business.” This company took that to a completely different level. It went past appreciation. This organization viewed our business as critical to their success. It was a must win for them. They were willing to push their risk far above the field in order to secure us as a customer for life.