Transaction into Interaction: A Compass for the Service Drive

It wasn't that long ago that the Automotive Industry underwent and survived a crisis. 

I believe we will be facing similar challenges if we don't re-wire the way we think and how we approach the service experience. The service department is the backbone of the dealership, without its revenue our margins would be tighter than they already are. 

A Cox Automotive Maintenance and Repair Study revealed that 57% of dealerships say that service retention is their primary concern, and it should be. 

Customers Have a Choice

Our customers have a choice; the Decision Maker has a variety of oil and filter retailers she can visit. Let's face it; she is going to dictate where each family vehicle gets serviced. 

If you want the Chief Purchasing Officer to choose you, you must recognize that she doesn’t need you, you need her. If you want her to pick you, you must turn decade's old transactional service into an interaction. 

In the same study, results showed that 86% of dealerships say they do not have a system that facilitates a superior customer experience; this is a problem. How can you expect your team to deliver on your customer’s expectations if you don’t provide them with the tools they need to be successful? You must provide them with a simple system they can follow and adapt to each customer they interact with each day. Technology is great, but not necessary to make change happen now. With or without technology, you can turn the current service transaction on its head with a simple system your service team can follow. 

A Customer Compass

I am assuming you would like to turn your transactional service into an interaction, living up to her expectations? My guess is you said yes silently to yourself. I have developed a customer compass, a "system", your team can follow in the service drive. 

According to Merriam-Websters Dictionary, a compass is a device for determining directions by means of a magnetic needle or group of needles turning freely on a pivot and pointing to the magnetic north. 

This simple customer compass will help your team head north; helping them to pivot when needing to provide a tailored experience for each customer. The customer compass described below for The Decision Maker can also be easily tweaked to suit your male customers.
I gave this compass an acronym: 'Greet' 

Greet her by using her name, and give yours (open her door if time permits)

The first impression (and the last) is what sticks out in a customer’s mind when going through an experience of any kind. 

The great Dale Carnegie remarked, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in the language”. Carnegie even suggests that a person’s name may be his or her most valuable connection. 

When you use her name to greet her, not only does it show you care enough about her and her business to remember her name; she will automatically feel connected to you because her name is the best sound she can here and you’re the one signing the tune. 

An added touch; open her door. Women carry their whole world with them; all the time. Between purses, coffee, laptop bags, books, and a cell phone we often struggle to get out of the car in one piece when in the service drive. Chivalry never dies. Knock her off her feet, open her door and greet her by her name.

Review her expectations (ask her!) and deliver on them

Uncovering the expectations of her interaction with you is more than half the battle of delivering an exceptional experience. Ask probing questions like; “ Do you have any appointments to get to?” “Do you have any concerns about your vehicle?” If she is a busy businesswoman “Will you need a private space to make any phone calls”.  By asking questions like these, you will be able to deliver on her wants and needs at the moment and deliver on her expectations. When you provide an experience that matches a customer’s expectations, then you will have one delighted customer.   

Establish an appropriate wait time

When in doubt, overestimate the wait time. Establishing an appropriate wait time also speaks to coming in line with your customer’s expectations. It’s always better to under promise and over deliver then to do the opposite and disappoint a customer. Give your team a little wiggle room and make your customer happy!  

Evaluate the wait time, communicate frequently, and show her what’s happening behind the scenes

When working with teams, I often draw a parallel between a loved one going into surgery and our car going in for service. Think about it for a minute; imagine yourself waiting in a waiting room at a hospital for information on what is going on behind closed doors. Your trust level lowers, your ‘spidy’ senses increase, and you automatically question the person that comes out from behind closed doors. The doctor now needs you to decide without all the information. You are then forced to trust the expert standing in front of you and make a decision that you wish you had more information on so you could make an educated decision. 

That is how your customer feels as she sits in the waiting room waiting for the technician (the expert; the car doctor) to tell her her car needs x, y, and z. She has to trust you, which is not always easy when she doesn’t know all the information.  

Show and educating her on the part (or parts) that you are suggesting needs changing with pictures or video. Doing this will lend to her feeling an increased level of trust, sense of caring, and comfortability in making an educated decision on saying yes to your suggest RO. 

Keeping her informed of the timing of the appointment will automatically adjust her expectations giving you the opportunity to deliver on them. 

Take her to her car, complete a walk-around, and ask; is there anything else I can do for you

The last impression matters as well. You have one last chance to recover from any service defects that has happened while she waited. 

Always walk her to her car. Complete the walk-around making sure to ask her if she has any questions. Ask her; is there anything else I can do for you today (9 times out of 10 she will say no, but you are at least giving her the opportunity to do so). Remind her that if she has any questions once she leaves she can call you directly (give her your card) and as a final touch, open her door for her. 

Taking these small steps, referring back to your customer compass and executing this simple system will turn the expected transactional service experience into an interaction she'll want to have again. 

Katie Mares CTDP, MCATD, CPSA, CSP is available to train your organization and brings her expertise to the automotive industry. She is a dynamic speaker at Women in Automotive and Digital Dealer Conferences. Among her offerings:

- Program Development
- Brand Standards
- Leadership Development
- Coaching Sessions
- Retail Workshops
- In-Dealership Implementation
- Ongoing Support