Improving the customer service experience
Customers are our business, so keeping them is a priority. We not only have to provide excellent repairs and maintenance, but make the service experience as convenient and smooth as possible. This means that from the appointment scheduling to the drop-off to the customer picking up their completed vehicle, we must be sure that the service process flows smoothly.
Working for BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY, I no longer have the luxury of getting my vehicle serviced at my own shop. I have become a customer. Recently, I needed to get my state inspection and oil change done and thought this was the best chance I have to experience what a customer goes through to get service.
I called to make my appointment and was immediately put on hold. When the gentlemen picked up my call, I told him what I needed, and figuring I should give him the vehicle type and year, he cuts me off asking for my phone number and when I can bring it in. I give him my number. He says, “We will see you then,” and hangs up. It wasn’t a negative experience, but it wasn’t a positive one either. That’s not the best way to start the whole service process.
How well does your shop handle customer appointment calls? This step can set the tone of the entire service visit, so it is extremely important to have a system in place that anyone who answers the phone follows. Additionally, the person answering the phone can prepare the customer for the visit by getting the information the shop needs and going over any recommendations generated by previous visits. By discussing recommendations during the call, you can set the caller up for the costs related to this work so that they can be better prepared.
Setting an appointment during the call can make the visit much better. Staggering customers’ appointment times not only reduces the time customers wait to be written up, but it will also give you more time to work with each customer, resulting in getting all the correct information and upselling recommended services.
I arrive for my appointment and find that several other customers are there already waiting. My turn to speak with the adviser comes, and I walk up to the counter. On the counter, I see a paper calendar and see my appointment listed as my name and phone number, nothing else. Thus, I need to repeat everything to him that needs to be done to my vehicle today as he writes the estimate.
Paper appointment schedules are more of a roadblock than a help. Management systems all have a calendar function that, in its most basic form, is much better than any paper calendar. If you gather information from the customer during the making of the appointment and put it into your management system, you can use it to start an estimate, ultimately saving time for both the customer and yourself. This is especially appreciated during the morning rush. Getting customers in and out of the shop quickly and efficiently will improve the entire service experience.
Clear and quick communication makes the customer’s experience quicker and cleaner. The phone is now more of an asset than ever. Texting is the newest and most efficient way to get in touch with customers. Text messages are viewed in under two minutes since they can be read anywhere and anytime. Better yet, customers will generally respond within minutes, helping your shop get the authorizations needed to get the vehicle done.
The shop I dropped my vehicle off at has the capability to text, so I made sure that they knew it was my preferred method of contact since I’d be in meetings all day. As the day passed, lunchtime had come and gone, and I was getting nervous about not getting any word on the status of my vehicle. I was feeling just like a customer, because I was. During a meeting, my phone rings, and I see it is the shop calling. All I could do was silence the phone and wait for the meeting to end. Worse yet, I was distracted the whole time wondering what the shop may have found.
The meeting ended, and I quickly listened to the message the shop left to find out that nothing was wrong with my car and it was ready for pickup. Though I was relieved the car was done, I found myself frustrated by all the worrying I did for nothing. If the shop had texted me instead of calling, I would have been able to focus on my meeting instead of worrying.
Performing digital vehicle inspections, with pictures and video, sent right to a customer’s phone not only improves the service experience but builds a new level of trust between your customers and shop. Seeing is believing. With properly taken pictures, customers can see the “what and why” of your shop’s recommended repairs or service. Unlike paper inspections in which the service advisor needs to explain each item, customers can look at the inspection as they speak with the advisor.
Digital inspections can also provide the customer with a history of the wear and tear on their vehicle. They can watch as the brakes wear down over time and are prepared to replace them when needed. The shop my car was at has these inspections, but for some reason, chose not to send me a copy until I asked for it.
You should also take the time to go over recommendations and future required services with customers. Once again, doing this prepares them for future work and costs while planting in their mind that they will need the money to pay for these items on the next visit.
Why not set the customer’s next appointment at this time, too? With all the recommendations that you just discussed still fresh in their mind, set the next appointment based on their driving habits. Calculate how many miles they drive a day, and set that appointment based on the type of oil used in the vehicle. Put the appointment in your management system calendar and discuss what recommendations should be done at that time. Even provide the customer with a cost estimate so that they can be prepared for the work due at that time. Don’t stop at just setting that appointment, have a system in place that will remind the customer when it gets near.
When I arrived to pick up my car, even after being told it was completed, the service advisor still had to close out my paperwork. The advisor made it nearly impossible to have a discussion with me as I noted above. He needed to fly through the paperwork to close it, so he could print it. Worse yet, he was holding me up. I had just expected to pay and go. How could have this been a better experience? Don’t call the customer until everything is completed, including paperwork!
These are just a few things that your shop can do to make each service experience a good one for your customers. Many of them are easy to do. You will find that there are multiple software solutions out there that can automate these simple tasks for you. You just need to find and use them consistently to keep your customers happy and coming back again and again.
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