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Customer engagement – Delivering on promises
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Three months ago, I started a multi-part series about how “details matter” in our current business environment. As I have said in prior issues, a dealership’s image and ongoing reputation is formed by what customers see, how they are engaged, and how they are communicated with.

The first article discussed how what a customer sees, affects his perception of what to expect from a dealership. In the second article, we reviewed the keys to an effective and purposeful customer engagement experience for those customers that visit your place of business. Last month we expanded on the customer experience, but from the perspective of how a customer is engaged using the telephone.    

This is the final chapter to this set of articles about how “details matter.” We have discussed at length how our dealership should look. We have also explored the best ways to engage the customer in order to create a positive customer experience. The final piece to this puzzle is to actually deliver quality products and services. Delivering what you promise is not just important, it’s crucial. The best customer engagement in the world is worthless if you can’t execute, or if you disregard the important details that people are likely to notice. Fit and finish are important, both in the product you sell, and the services you render.

I want to share a couple of examples of companies I have visited where the image and mission statement they wanted to convey to their customers were greatly affected by missing some of the details and not paying attention to creating visual excellence and quality customer experiences.

Example 1 - Commitment to quality

Most everyone has visited, or at least heard of the Bass Pro Shops. This is a nationwide organization that sells everything from boats, to guns, to camping equipment. If you do it outdoors, Bass Pro Shops has what you need. Visiting one of these stores is an event. High quality taxidermy can be found throughout the store staged in a way makes you feel like you have walked into a high-country setting. Huge aquariums feature live saltwater game fish, and monster trout swimming in a replicated mountain stream. Fishing demonstrations, and educational events are sponsored almost every weekend. In all ways this store represents the best in outdoor apparel, equipment and supplies. 

Earlier this year I stopped by the Bass Pro Shop (which happens to be just a couple miles from my home), to purchase a fishing license. While waiting in line, I surveyed the store and watched the employees as they helped their customers. I then turned toward the counter and saw their “goal statement” proudly displayed behind the service desk. The goals listed were as follows:

  • Price
  • Service
  • Quality
  • Selection

Then disappointment set in. A company that invests so heavily in the proud image of providing QUALITY, should at least repair the sign that touts their key objectives. If you notice in the photo below, the “T” in the word “Quality” had fallen off the sign.

Is this a big deal in the grand scheme of things? No. Did I still buy the license? Yes. But the image of Bass Pro Shops that I had built in my mind was forever altered by one minor detail.

Example 2 – High Brow Venus

One Saturday morning, my wife, some friends and I decided to have brunch at the Grand Island Mansion. This facility is a remote mansion on the Sacramento Delta and is known for its sweeping views and beautiful architecture. It is a much sought-after venue for weddings, anniversaries and corporate events. The mansion was completed in 1920, and features four levels, expansive ballrooms and manicured gardens with multiple outside event spaces. The brunch was exquisite, prepared by a very popular local chef who limits his culinary appearance at the mansion to once a month. Everything about this place from the food, to the staff, to the well-preserved building portrays a high quality “top shelf” experience. 

After brunch, I took a walk around the grounds and watched as the staff prepared an outside area for an impending wedding later that day. I was appreciating the way they used topiary and local plants and flowers to enhance their theme of excellence and luxury.

This was my view from the porch. 

Something caught my eye about the topiary in the planter that framed the stairs to the front porch.  I looked more closely and saw this:

So, the mansion that I had considered the pinnacle of “hoity-toity”“was actually using plastic topiary made in China. Don’t get me wrong, it was a high-quality reproduction. In fact, I would not even have noticed it, if they had just paid attention to the details and REMOVED THE TAG. 

These examples illustrate how the smallest of details can significantly alter the message that you want your customers to hear. So, what are we missing? Of all the customer touch points we encounter, I am convinced that we lose our message in failing to follow up properly. This is the key area where most dealers can separate themselves from the field. It can be the one area where customers become convinced that you do indeed deliver on what you promise.

The end product in the aftermarket business consists of more than just a completed repair, or a signed counter tag. Let’s consider some of the ways the customer is engaged AFTER the sale. My observation is that it is in the process of follow up and follow through that many dealers relax, and in that moment, they can sorely disappoint a customer.

  1. Will call notifications

If parts are sitting in the will call area for over 10 business days, not enough is being done to communicate with the customer. The job actually ends when the parts are in their hands.

  1. Worn out boxes and packaging

Techs carry parts in their vans, and in the process, boxes rub together and the labeling and condition of the packaging deteriorates. Some of these parts end up being returned to the parts department for one reason or another. The contents may be perfectly fine, but the condition of the box may not be suitable for selling that part in an over the counter purchase. Is your parts staff tuned in to that? Do they have tools available to repackage parts?

  1. Invoicing

Are your invoices understandable? Do you have a review process in place prior to invoicing? Does the work description on the invoice make sense? Are there spelling errors? Does it tell a story you can defend? The best way to assess if an invoice is suitable for the customer is to read it, and then ask yourself “would I pay this bill?” If you wouldn’t pay it, I doubt that your customer will either.

  1. Follow up on repairs by admin or sales staff

Does someone on your team follow up on work performed and gauge customer satisfaction? Many times, we conclude that if we didn’t hear anything negative from the customer, then it must be OK. You can’t fix what might be wrong if you are afraid to look at the results.

  1. PM coordination

Do you call customer prior to showing up for a PM service? If not, how many times have you waited for a truck to be unloaded?  How many customers decline and reschedule the service, when a simple phone call would not only save money, but represent to the customer that you respect his patronage?

  1. Fleet management tools

Do you offer fleet management tools? You can sell equipment, but if you don’t have a way to track expenses and repairs after the sale, how can you prove your claims? How do you get the next order? This information allows the aftermarket department to have meaningful conversations with customers regarding their fleet on an ongoing basis. It should be a standard offering with every unit delivered.

These are just a few examples of the details that must be attended to if you want to build and maintain an image of excellence and exceptionalism.  I trust that you found this series useful.  Please feel free to share with me any experiences that you have had that proved to you that “details matter.”  I look forward to hearing from you.

Dave Baiocchi is the president of Resonant Dealer Services LLC.  He has spent 33 years in the equipment business as a sales manager, aftermarket director and dealer principal.  Dave now consults with dealerships nationwide to establish and enhance best practices, especially in the area of aftermarket development and performance.  E-mail to contact Dave.