Customer service is an attitude displayed by every employee within the equipment dealership. It is not a totally separate department within the dealership. World-class customer service requires that everyone provides superior customer service to the current base of customers, as well as prospective customers. There is no room in any organization for those who believe the customer is the enemy!
Customers and prospective customers are the absolute “life blood” of any equipment dealership. There is little chance for survival in today’s marketplace for an equipment dealer without a culture of customer satisfaction. This culture must be expressed by everyone within the dealership, from the receptionist to the president. No one is exempt from the development of a strong and loyal cadre of customers; including technicians, truck drivers, administrative personal, counter people, sales personnel, managers and owners.
We have studied and read customer surveys performed by the equipment industries for well over 40 years. Despite all the seminars, books and discussions on customer service, indifference continues to lead the list of reasons why customers continue to leave one supplier for another. Indifference can be basically defined as an attitude of not caring.
Many times we believe the equipment dealer confuses the term “customer satisfaction” with “customer good will.” Once customer good will, or “giveaways” begins it is difficult to stop and the customer begins to take good will for granted, causing the dealership to lose out financially in the long run.
So where do we begin? Superior customer service develops strong customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is how the customer views their relationship with the equipment dealer. It is what makes the customer want to come back time and time again for the dealer’s superior service. Customer satisfaction is a genuine feeling that the dealer cares after the sale has been made. Customer satisfaction is a caring attitude expressed by the dealership and all the dealership’s personal toward the customer.
Customer retention is earned through customer satisfaction and builds customer loyalty toward the dealership, and listen-up all you manufacturers: Customer loyalty builds market share!
It has been estimated that equipment dealers spend six times the amount of money to capture a new customer versus what they spend in keeping that same customer loyal to the dealership. Is the equipment dealer’s emphasis misplaced? Customer retention means financial success for the equipment dealer. Losing a customer carries a cost five times the annual value of that customer’s yearly account to the dealership. We have always maintained that how you satisfy the customer’s needs after the sale determines customer retention.
I will use the words of an equipment dealer I believe is a true world-class dealer. He states that the dealership’s major reason for success in customer retention and loyalty is: “Hire people with a customer focused attitude and then help them to continue the development of this attitude through encouragement, praise and training.” He points out that most dealers hire people that can do the nuts and bolts side of the position very well, but some dealers never ask a potential hire what does world class service look like to them? The dealer goes on to say that you can train people on what a culture of customer service means, but to be the best it must be part of the prospective hire’s character.
Believe it or not I once met a service manager who absolutely loved his job, and the only thing he disliked about it was he constantly had to deal with unhappy customers.
Talk about a “square pet in a round hole”. In most cases in any dealership absolutely no one has more employee and customer contact; over the phone or face-to-face than a service manager. If a potential hire for service management has “poor people skills”, don’t hire him no matter how great his technical skills are.