How to Create the Greatest Customer Experience Ever

August 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Tom Herald - Also by this author

One unhappy customer will tell the world about bad service, while a happy customer rarely tells a soul. Your challenge as a dealer is to create a buzz so positive about your dealership that your customers become raving fans and want to tell the world about you! Set your goal to have each and every current and previous customer make you their “Dealer of Voice,” not just their dealer of choice, and get them to tell everybody they know about you and the service they received from your dealership.

We live in a supply-side economy today where there are simply too many choices for consumers. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are all cutting their distribution points (i.e., dealerships) in order to match the demand from their decreasing share of the market. Your survival as a dealer depends on many factors, but one piece of every wildly successful business you should grab is the “customer experience.” It's just too easy to be great at this to let it be a reason for one lost sale. And since many of your competitors are miserable at creating a fantastic customer experience, this creates a huge competitive opportunity for you.

Here are five simple starting points to create the greatest customer experience ever:

Focus inside out and look at your business the way a customer does. You can't do this yourself because you have a biased viewpoint. Ask friends, family, relatives, acquaintances and strangers to visit your dealership, and be sure to get brutally honest feedback about how your business appears and works from a customer's perspective. Don't focus on the routine; everyone does the ordinary well enough. It's the exceptions and the crises that make businesses rise or fall. Have a friend complain or return a newly purchased vehicle for service; 99 times out of 100 your staff will not be treating these exceptions the same way you, the owner, would have treated that customer. Anyone can train his or her staff. The key is to train your staff to think through every situation.

Listen actively to everything and anything that can help you see what the customer sees. Very few people give you direct feedback. Active listening means taking in all the verbal and non-verbal clues. “Just looking” means “I am in the market for a car, but I have not found anything here that makes me want to buy.” What is the first impression a customer has whenever they pull onto your lot? Are they greeted when they walk into the showroom? Does it feel like a winning organization or does it smell like failure?

3) Measure everything from the customer's perspective. How fast does your Web site load? How long does a customer have to wait for service? Do people like your inventory? Is the atmosphere high-pressure sales or quiet as a funeral home? Are people smiling or do they look stressed? Is there anything in your process that makes them go, “Wow!”?

Make it Fun! You need sales and profits. Your goal is to increase your net profit, but guess what? Your customers don’t care about you or what you want. It’s not about you. It’s about them, so let’s focus on their experience. People hate to be sold, but they love to buy. The task is to listen to what they want, understand what they need and make them feel like a buyer and remind them that buying is fun. People remember how we make them “feel,” not what we say. If your staff is having fun, your customers will have fun. If you make your customer feel like a “real customer” who has choices and treat them with respect, regardless of their credit, they will not forget you. They will buy you.                             

Improve constantly. If you haven't fixed something in the last 48 hours, you've just fallen two days behind your best competitor. Focus on the smallest improvements that will make a difference. If your showroom is ugly, fix it. If your staff treats customers like an interruption to their busy day, fix it. If your logo is boring, fix it. If the last time anyone other than you had an idea was never, fix it. You're not that smart and they're not that dumb; you are making them feel unimportant.

There are 1,000 ways to turn your mindset inside out and start running your dealership the way your customers would like, instead of the way that's most convenient for you. Remember, you're trying to create a maximum experience and maximum customer loyalty that will lead to maximum sales.

Vol 5, Issue 6

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