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Delivering Superior Customer Service First Things First: Master the Basics 

It goes without saying that developing a reputation for superior customer service is an imperative for business success. But I’m always saying it! So should you – to your employees. Customers don’t need much of an excuse to head over to your competitor if your business falls even the slightest bit short in the level of service you provide. And in today’s highly competitive marketplace, you can’t afford to lose even one customer.

....The Experience Matters!

 We hear so much talk today about providing a consistently great “customer experience,” and the importance of putting the “wow” factor into that experience. We also hear a great deal about consistently improving processes and procedures, and using state-of-the-art technology to make it easy for the customer to do business with us. Yet there are far too many organizations that have not even mastered the basics.  
 
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Basic Five-Step Process for Serving Customers

1. Answer the phone and greet customers in a friendly and highly professional manner.

  • “XYZ Equipment, this is Susan, how may I direct your call?”
  • “XYZ Equipment, Parts Department, this is John, how may I help you?”
  • If you know the customer, be sure to make them feel important. “Oh, hello Mr. Smith, how are you today?” Remember Norm from the TV show “Cheers”? He was so well loved and is still remembered to this day. Why? Because he knew everyone’s name!
  • When a new customer comes in to your dealership, walk toward them and extend your hand as you say, “Hello, I’m John. What brings you in today?” (Not “Can I help you?” – too boring!)

2. Ask how you can help, and then listen.

  • Perhaps the biggest difference in the way we did business in the past and how we will need to do  it in the future is that we will have to be better listeners. Demonstrate that you’re listening by maintaining eye contact and reconfirming what the customer wants. This is often referred to as “paraphrasing.” As my speaker colleague Jeffrey Gitomer says, “You will never listen yourself out of a customer.”

3. Help customers.

  • Tell them what you will do, and do it. It’s the most important part of your job. If the customer has a problem, take ownership to resolve the problem. Refrain from simply handing it off to someone else unless it’s absolutely not yours to solve.  
  • Provide the customer with more help than they ever dreamed would be possible. This includes being far more knowledgeable than any of your competitors.

4. Ask what more you can do.

  • Never hang up or say goodbye without asking, “Is there anything more I can do for you today?”

5. Thank customers for their business.

  • Customers want to be appreciated – very appreciated. Never take them for granted. Thank them often.

More Basics

Answer the phone and greet customers in a friendly and highly professional manner.

  • “XYZ Equipment, this is Susan, how may I direct your call?”
  • “XYZ Equipment, Parts Department, this is John, how may I help you?”
  • If you know the customer, be sure to make them feel important. “Oh, hello Mr. Smith, how are you today?” Remember Norm from the TV show “Cheers”? He was so well loved and is still remembered to this day. Why? Because he knew everyone’s name!
  • When a new customer comes in to your dealership, walk toward them and extend your hand as you say, “Hello, I’m John. What brings you in today?” (Not “Can I help you?” – too boring!)

Ask how you can help, and then listen.

  • Perhaps the biggest difference in the way we did business in the past and how we will need to do  it in the future is that we will have to be better listeners. Demonstrate that you’re listening by maintaining eye contact and reconfirming what the customer wants. This is often referred to as “paraphrasing.” As my speaker colleague Jeffrey Gitomer says, “You will never listen yourself out of a customer.”

Help customers.

  • Tell them what you will do, and do it. It’s the most important part of your job. If the customer has a problem, take ownership to resolve the problem. Refrain from simply handing it off to someone else unless it’s absolutely not yours to solve.  
  • Provide the customer with more help than they ever dreamed would be possible. This includes being far more knowledgeable than any of your competitors.

Ask what more you can do.

  • Never hang up or say goodbye without asking, “Is there anything more I can do for you today?”

Thank customers for their business.

  • Customers want to be appreciated – very appreciated. Never take them for granted. Thank them often.

Make a positive first impression.

There’s nothing worse than walking into a place of business and being ignored by the person behind the counter because they are on a personal call. And if they are not dressed nicely and neatly, that positive first impression is not going to occur. Scrutinizing customers may think that if a dealership is lax with professionalism and dress codes, they may be lax in the level of service they provide. Make it mandatory that techs and parts and service managers wear uniforms.

Your equipment and the way it’s displayed should be impressive, but your facility is also a part of your presentation. When a customer walks into your place of business, it should shout cleanliness and orderliness. The outside of your facility should be nicely landscaped and without debris anywhere near the building. Your washrooms should be clean. If you think these things are not important to customers, you are dead wrong!

Respect the customer and be courteous at all times.

Customers are spending their hard-earned money at your dealership. Give them respect and courtesy, even if they are difficult. Never judge or correct them. Refrain from saying, “Why did you let that mechanic touch that machine?” or “You should have used the oil testing kit.” Demonstrate an urgency to serve. If you don’t, customers will go elsewhere.
 
Answer every call by the third ring. Sound “ready to serve.”

Return calls promptly, no longer than 90 minutes later.

Find parts fast. Train others to jump in and help when needed.

Provide the fastest field assistance possible. If your service manager is getting bogged down, determine ways you can assist. Provide a 24-hour hotline. This is, indeed, a service basic expected of you by your customers.
 
Handle complaints with professionalism.

If you’ve read my articles or attended my seminars, you know how to use “verbal cushions” when a customer is angry. This is a communication technique taught by customer service trainers. These words and phrases “cushion” a customer’s displeasure and help you to service them more effectively. The verbal cushions below communicate a sense of concern, promote cooperation, and display empathy. Memorize them so that you can apply them in challenging situations.

  • “I apologize that this occurred, John.”
  • “I can understand why you’re upset.”
  • “I’m very sorry this has happened to you.”
  • “I apologize if there’s been a misunderstanding.”
  • “I can understand why you would be unhappy.”
  • “I understand your position.”
  • “Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”
  • “I agree with you completely. This is crucial to the job you’re doing.”
  • “I recognize the urgency involved. Let me take care of this immediately.”
  • “I want you to walk out of here a happy customer.”
     

Apply the highest levels of communication.

In fact, over-communicate!

  • Obtain complete contact information, machine location, model, year, hours used, etc.
  • Parts and service managers: ask the customer, “How would you like me to follow up?”

    • “How can I help you today?”
    • “Is there anything more I can do for you today?”
    • “My pleasure.”
    • “You’re more than welcome.”
    • “I will keep you informed of our progress.”
    • “We appreciate your business.” 
    • “How was the level of service today?”
  • Parts and service managers: ask the customer, “How would you like me to follow up?”
  • Over-communicate with customers, including your internal customers. Make sure all departments have all the important information they need. Let them know when you can get back to them with an answer.
  • Reach out – call customers even if it’s only to keep them informed on what you are doing to help them.
  • Use text messaging. Most people dislike using the phone these days.

Build trust.

  • Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.
  • Follow up.
  • Fix it on time, and fix it right the first time.
  • Deliver it on time.
  • Never make a promise you can’t keep.
  • Under-promise, over-deliver.

Exceed expectations.

This is an important basic of customer service. Today’s customers have high expectations. Meeting them is good, but not great. Exceeding expectations in every way possible is, by far, the best way to obtain customer loyalty and a great way to get customers to talk about you. Strive to exceed expectations at every opportunity. Stand on your head for your customers. In one of my seminars, a service manager told me he stayed with the tech on Christmas Eve, so the customer could pick up his machine and get back to work the day after Christmas. The customer told them he will never stop buying and getting his equipment serviced by that dealership.

Once you and everyone in your company have mastered the basics of customer service, think of how you can add value, make it easier for customers to do business with you, streamline processes and procedures, and examine “moments of truth” (times when a customer provides you with an opportunity to impress them). Then, add the “wow” factor. If you do this, you will be in a better position to establish higher levels of customer loyalty and maintain strength in the marketplace.

With unrivaled expertise, strive to deliver intuitive and proactive service and a consistently superior customer experience.

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