The Keys to Driving Better Customer Service in the Automotive Industry

car repair shop

It’s no secret that high-quality customer service boosts profitability and brand reputation. For many businesses in the automotive industry, though, the mystery is how to get there without significantly boosting costs. Tapping into customer intelligence is one way to overhaul an ineffective customer service strategy.

More than most businesses, dealerships and auto repair shops face tough challenges in the area of customer experience improvement. While many companies do brisk business online today, cutting costs at bricks-and-mortar locations and freeing up money to invest in customer satisfaction, those in the auto sector still deal with customers face to face or by phone for nearly every transaction. Fortunately reputation and word of mouth still count for a lot as far as repair shops and dealerships are concerned, taking at least a little pressure off of marketing.

By focusing efforts on customer experience improvement, rather than dumping everything into marketing, automotive companies will be leveraging their current situation. At the same time, it looks as though drivers will be asking more of their vehicles for the foreseeable future as economic uncertainty continues to loom large in the background. This should present auto repair shops a golden opportunity to woo customers putting off the car-buying process for yet another year.

Here are a few keys to improving customer experience and, hopefully, the bottom line.

1. Make customer service an ongoing focus

It would be nice to see instant returns on an investment – that goes for mutual funds as much as customer experience improvement strategies. But in reality only a sustained, multi-faceted effort will produce the kind of results that help one business pull away from the pack (or, in some cases, catch up to the rest of the pack).

Customers need to see great service as the rule, not the exception to the rule. More importantly, though, employees must feel that customer experience improvement has become part of the fabric of their workplace environment. The focus on providing a better experience will be passed down to new employees and ultimately help establish a culture of accountability.

Ensure employees have opportunities to brush up on their customer service skills, taking inspiration from other business inside or outside your industry where possible. Your approach doesn’t have to be ground-breaking to be effective, just sincere.

2. Create a pleasing environment for customers

A lot of science, planning and forethought go into building an environment customers can feel comfortable in. But by doing the little things – offering fresh coffee, new reading material, clean waiting areas, free Wi-Fi, pleasant décor – you can show customers that you’re paying attention to their experiences.

customer-satisfied-after-buying-car

Instead of having customers dread the day they have to bring their car in for service, which can also result in delays of that service and fewer sales, create an inviting space that will reshape the way they think about the auto repair experience. Be observant about things like body language and how customers pass time while waiting; you’ll find that people are willing to pay a little more for services to their vehicle if they’re also well taken care of.

And because so much of what a repair shop does unfolds behind the scenes, the customer is often left to use their imagination. They can only assume that what they see – the waiting room, employees at the service desk – is an accurate reflection of the kind of care and attention to detail their vehicle will receive.

By working with employees on a plan for customer experience improvement, you can also promote a deeper trust with customers – people who, when treated well, tend not to be shy about expressing their satisfaction to others. But this double-edged sword means that negative feedback can spread just as far and just as fast – all the more reason to dedicate resources to refining customer service strategy.

3. Gather customer intelligence and work smarter

If your sense of creativity is tapped out, why not go straight to the source for ideas? Create a customer satisfaction survey or series of surveys that participants can access easily after interacting with your business. With the experience fresh in their minds they’ll be better able to recommend changes and make detailed comments.

Focus on key areas that might be lagging, such as service at the reception desk, using questions that produce valuable customer intelligence. Today the buzzword is “actionable insight,” ideas that you can act on. But the strategy isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s the customer satisfaction survey’s convenience and straightforwardness that has for decades made it a staple of businesses working toward customer experience improvement.

4. Think long term, gain in the end

So much customer dissatisfaction that arises can be chalked up to poor advice, or at least the perception of poor advice. Here, too, automotive dealerships and repair shops occupy a unique position. The high costs associated with vehicle ownership make every decision more significant for the customer. Bad advice about a coffeemaker is one thing, but another thing entirely when it comes to major service on an engine or transmission.

As countless surveys producing customer intelligence show, consumers don’t want to feel as though they know more about a product or service than the person providing it. The automotive industry’s very nature makes it conducive to establishing long-lasting relationships built on trust, so it should come as no surprise that customers expect advice and service geared toward retaining them for the long term. And while paying a little more for a better product or service isn’t an issue for most people, it will become an issue for your business if down the road what you’ve sold doesn’t meet expectations.

As many businesses in the automotive industry can attest, customer experience improvement doesn’t come easily, or without investment. GoalLine Solutions has worked with auto dealers and repair shops to help streamline the improvement process, offering a host of software tools and services designed to elicit valuable customer intelligence, bolster brand reputation and produce a more satisfying customer service experience. Products like boostCX, a customer experience management platform with the ability to create and distribute customer satisfaction surveys, and Rev-UP, a comprehensive employee performance management system for the auto industry, will ensure you don’t have to go it alone.

Jun, 13, 2013

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