As more and more retailers commit to substantial investments on facilities. The room for creating that individual customer experience gets smaller but the expectations become more challenging.

Many retailers and the staff within them are now finding out the real costs of upgrading their facilities. It is not just from a financial standpoint, but the level of customer expectation.

Customers now expect more. They expect a service which matches their environment, a flawless experience, an experience that matches a 5-star Hotel.

Now, while I agree with these expectations in some circumstances, I do believe every car retailer should be striving to achieve these standards as a minimum. I do also feel that we need to establish some core basics to build the foundations to excel to this level of service.

Customer service should not be limited to these points but If we strive to get these correct and performed as the status quo. It will have a positive impact on how a customer feels during their experience at a retailer.

1. Customer Contact

Customer Contact

Throughout the customer experience, there are several touchpoints. They enable us to interact and guide each customer on their own individual journey.

These can be face to face, on the phone or via e-mail. Each one plays a vital role in building that trusting relationship. They enable you to show the customer that you are entirely in control of their journey.

So how do these touchpoints look:

Customer Pre-call

Forty-eight hours before the customer’s appointment, we have an opportunity. This opportunity is for the Service Advisor to introduce themselves to the customer and initiate the experience.

Set the customer at ease and ensure both the customer and the Service Advisor fully understanding the appointment booking. If performed correctly, we will have no unhappy surprises on arrival for you or the customer.

In carrying out the pre-call, we promote the customer to feel safe. It helps the customer to be in the knowledge that they are bringing their vehicle to professionals. It sets the tone and expectations for the rest of their visit.

Customer Arrival 

Providing the customer pre-call did take place. The customer arrival should be all about going over the details. Building that trusting relationship further and ensuring their every need is attended too.

This is a great opportunity utilise the face to face time, look after your customers. People deal with people, and this is where you will win or lose a customers business for the future.

One last point, make sure you establish a contact plan…

It’s your job to know if a customer would only like updates via e-mails. Never bombarded with missed calls!

Customer Updates

Once you have established the correct update method, it is now vital the customer is updated.

With updates being carried out throughout the journey. A customer should always know the status of their vehicle.

Having spent all that time building a trusting relationship, failing at this step will undo all that hard work. The customer should never have to enquire on information or an update.

Let me ask you this:

How many complaints do you receive against your staff for over contacting their customers?

By updating the customer, we are letting them feel in control. We are allowing them to feel involved in the process.

Customer Collection

By collection, the customer is already aware of all the work carried out and costings. We do not want unhappy surprises on vehicle collection.

The collection process/visit provides the opportunity to highlight all the great work you have done.

How great their clean car looks, the removal of that chocolate stain on the rear seat!

Use this as the opportunity to highlight all of your going above and beyond.

Top Tip:

Remember to make sure that you check their car in good time before customer arrival. We all know to hand over a dirty car after you said you would clean it is a tad embarrassing!

To summarise:

1. Keep the customer informed regardless of the update at all costs.

2. Do everything you can to build that trusting relationship. Be relatable and be human.

3. Ensure you have carried out everything you said you were going to.

2. Time Management

Time Management

A customers time is always more important than yours.

While this may not be a completely accurate statement, it is something that you need to stick too. If you value your customers times as much as your own, they will appreciate the service you provide.

In today’s world, we want everything done quickly and efficiently.

For your customers, this is no different; their time is their money. Be efficient and frictionless with your information; provide your customers with only the details they need.

The most important message is this:

Do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it

  • Make your appointments on time
  • Complete customer cars on time
  • Provide customer updates on time

3. Customer Interaction

Customer Interaction

Now I am pretty sure you already know this, but every customer interaction is essential.

I would like to raise a couple of questions for you to ask yourself:

What sets you apart from the competition? 

Why should a customer use your Aftersales Department? 

My reasoning for asking you these questions is, if you cannot answer these you need to find and/or put in place the answers.

Customer service is at the forefront of expectations regardless of the industry. It is what ensures your business will survive in the present and be sustainable in the future. No longer is being a manufacturers agent enough.

How you achieve the level of service required will depend on many circumstances. My recommendations are to start with the basics, build on solid foundations.

Here are some of the basics I recommend as a minimum:

  • Make the customer feel valued. Make them feel special. Do whatever you can to go above and beyond, excel at every task.
  • When dealing with a customer, ensure all your attention is with them. Listen with intent and focus on their requirements.
  • Offer refreshments, it’s a basic. I even get offered something when I go to get my hair cut!
  • Go with them to their car on the collection, it shows you care, and it is another chance in providing yourself more time to build that trusting relationship.
  • Be yourself; people relate to people. Give the customer a reason to come back. Do this by being the most helpful and understanding person they have ever interacted with!

None of the above is rocket science or revolutionary.

I want to challenge you to go and view the service you deliver. Do you tick these points consistently?

4. Customer Invoice

Customer Invoice

When a customer collects their car they leave with three things as a minimum;

  1. A fixed or service car
  2. A clean car
  3. An invoice pack explaining the work carried out

This last point I would like to expand on.

When was the last time you viewed a customer invoice, from a customers point of view? 

How did it read? 

The retailers that I visit this is an area that most of them can improve on. Too often, I find invoices that:

  • Do not build the value of the repair but then charge a significant amount
  • Parts fitted do not correspond with correct repair lines
  • The repair explanation is missing altogether, but there is a cost charged to the customer.

How is it a surprise when customers then complain about the costs of servicing or repairs?

For me, the standard is simple:

A technical or non-technical person can read and fully understand the work that has been carried out. It must include the parts utilised and how much the value is that relates to that repair. The overall cost is to be included.

I would then recommend there is an inclusion of what I call the added value lines. Added value lines are what build the value and provide the customer with even more information. These should be standardised for every invoice.

For example: “Your Service Advisor today was…”

In ensuring the invoice is as comprehensive as you can make it, you are building the experience. You are ensuring the customer is fully aware of the work that has been carried out and how much it is going to cost.

This promotes TRUST and TRANSPARENCY from your department and the people within.

5. Customer Complaints

Customer Complaints

Customer expectations are sky-high; this added with the need to satisfy everyday financial pressures means the inevitable:

 Customer complaints will occur.

Some parties would argue that if there are no complaints, you are not pushing your department hard enough.

Regardless, the way you deal with customer complaints can ensure your businesses ultimate success or your worst failures over and over again. Too often, I visit retailers only to find they are not learning from their mistakes. They tell me they don’t have any…

My last point is to ensure you and your business protect yourself from the nativity of thinking this way and install a process to monitor and learn from your failures.

The level of detail that you go into on reviewing and installing a complaint process is dependent on many things, but these are the basics I recommend:

Repeat Visit Log – Capture all repeat visits and analyse the results at least once a week. Also, include a route cause analysis as to why each repair is a repeat visit for the customer.

Monitor trends monthly and you can then see if your rectification actions are having the desired effect.

Quality Control – Ensure you check as many vehicles for repair confirmation as possible before the customer’s hand over. –

Is the customer concern fixed? If not, do not return the vehicle back to the customer.

Handing over an un-repaired vehicle is the ultimate cause of a relationship breakdown. Your primary responsibility is to fix the customer complaint right the first time!

Communication – Be sure to communicate all learnings to your staff. Utilise the opportunity for other people to learn from each other’s mistakes. In sharing this knowledge, it will promote a safe and trusting working environment for your staff.

Customer Service is all about how the customer feels during your service experience. It’s is all in your hands. 

If you can master these steps, your department will be a lot closer to providing industry-leading customer service and achieving the 5-star Hotel experience.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article. I hope you have either taken away some learning or I have got you thinking about how to transform your customer experience.

Please leave a comment and provide feedback on some more points you feel are vital to customer satisfaction within an Aftersales department.