What is your biggest asset? Is it your impressive floor plan, the lineup of new inventory you have on your lot or is it your employees, customers and service that matter most? In an industry where a significant amount of emphasis is still placed on units sold, I challenge you to rethink your approach to business. Customer service and brand management are your biggest assets and it is imperative that you dedicate attention there in order to be recognized as a great place to do business.
Without great customer service, whether it’s provided by your sales or service team, the receptionist or even your shuttle driver, your brand suffers. Consumers have lots of choice; and they have become extremely savvy as to who they engage in business with. So you need to provide an experience that is positively memorable and encourages them to share the experience with others, and come back for more. To quote Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, an industry leader of online shoe and clothing retail, “You need to deliver WOW through service“.
Service is the heart of any business. Getting people to make the initial purchase is one thing, sustaining the business takes work and dedication. And this work doesn’t have to be hard or tiresome. Try some simple acts of kindness, like greeting your customers at their vehicle when they roll in for service, offering a relaxed environment to stroll through your lot while shopping for their new vehicle. Or even making a point to be proactive and stay connected to your customers throughout the day via phone, text, email or personal websites, to give them a heads up on the progress of their vehicle service, can go a long way into “wowing” them.
Quality customer service should be at the forefront of your corporate values and mission statement. We can all learn a great deal from the experiences we have from businesses like Zappos. Zappos employees are encouraged to spend as much time as they need with their phones customers, make recommendations, and even direct them to a competitor’s website if they are out of inventory of the product that the customer really wants to buy. Sending a customer down the road is a very unsettling idea. However, offering to service that vehicle throughout the ownership lifecycle is a great opportunity to continue to earn the loyalty from that customer. Don’t just send them down the road empty handed. Offer them the same opportunities to participate in your loyalty programs, recognize them on their birthdays/anniversaries and continue to send your mail offers. Don’t lose the connection or the opportunity to provide great service. Transparency is a key element that can be pivotal in building your brand and customer loyalty.
To reinforce this customer first culture, regular quick-tip meetings with your entire staff is a good way to make sure everyone understands your mission and vision. Dedicating 10-to-15 minutes a day or week to go over your key customer service points is a method to ensure everyone understands the business culture and how to best service every customer or potential customer that walks through your doors. Fostering a positive environment can naturally be reflective in how your customers feel welcomed when they visit your dealership.
As a side note, if you ever come to Las Vegas (whether it’s for work or pleasure) and can pry yourself away from the intoxication of the ringing sounds from the slot machines, flashing lights and fascination of the elaborate casinos, I encourage you to drive to Henderson where Zappos is headquartered… which incidentally is just a few miles from MPi’s headquarter. Zappos offers tours to individuals and businesses to come and meet their dedicated team members, get a glimpse into their culture and offers free resources that you can take back to your office to create your own wow factor. Because MPi is so close in proximity to Zappos’s office, my staff has taken advantage of this opportunity on numerous occasions. Each time they visit, they return with great ideas about how we can foster a customer first approach to our business. And we’ve implemented them. MPi is known for the highest level of customer care in our market space as we work hard to live by our motto: “customers come first”.
Now is the time to get creative with your approach to service and put your customers first so they are customers for life.
In today’s world, there are many standout companies when it comes to customer service; Zappos and Nordstrom being a couple of examples. These companies focus on providing their customers with world-class service and, because of that, people are willing to pay more while maintaining fierce loyalty. Not only do these companies earn the loyalty of their customers through the service experience, they transform many of them into brand advocates. The reason their customers patronize them and recognize this level of customer service is that it is, unfortunately, not the norm in today’s world.
Zappos and Nordstrom are not in business to lose money. In fact, both companies profit through their reputations of providing great customer service that, in turn, increase their customer base by attracting new customers eager to share in the experience.
The Olive Garden restaurant recently sympathized with a patron whose parent’s house had just burned down and decided to comp the party’s entire meal. The patron posted a photo of the comp’d receipt to the Internet in an effort to thank and show appreciation for the Olive Garden’s good deed. Because people aren’t used to acts of kindness and service from companies, many were skeptical and questioned the receipt as a PR stunt even after the patron posted links to news articles reporting the house fire and the Olive Garden’s PR agency denying their involvement. The photo quickly went viral and has not only spread through social media but has also been picked up by prominent news agencies like Yahoo!, The Huffington Post and the Consumerist.
By providing an exceptional customer service experience; your customers will become loyal and share their experiences with others. Even though people may begin with skepticism, by providing a consistent experience of excellent service, word will spread and customers will not only go out of their way to patronize your dealership but also to encourage others to do so.
Through technology, we’re more capable than ever to provide this experience to our customers in an easier, more efficient manner that will lead to increased revenue, loyalty, customer retention and consistently excellent CSI scores while allowing you to maintain an acceptable profit on your services.