by Colby Horton
ASA's Manager of Web Operations
A lot has changed in our industry over the past few years. But one thing remains constant: customer service is what drives customers back to our shops. This was the topic of the Wednesday morning Congress session, "Service: Achieving Excellence in the Changing Collision Repair Industry," presented by Nick Bartoszek of Sherwin-Williams.
"You have to take care of the customers you already have," said Bartoszek. And that key message resounded throughout the session. "Loyal customers are those who enjoy buying from you, who intend to keep buying from you and who regularly advocates your products and services to their friends. Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are related and can be measured."
Bartoszek explained that on average, a 5 percent decrease in customer defections can produce a 25-85 percent increase in company profits over a 7-year period. This profitability of loyal customers can be attributed to several factors. First, there is no acquisition cost associated with bringing existing customers in the door. In addition, the longer you keep a customer, the longer you can earn a profit on his or her purchases. And over time, customers' spending tends to accelerate. But most importantly, satisfied customers recommend you to others.
According to Bartoszek, the main reason customers switch to a new provider is not to get a product or service at a cheaper price, but is because of poor customer service. So with this in mind, Bartoszek discussed the driving principles of customer service. These principles include thinking like a customer; following a reliable process; and looking beyond the final transaction.
Bartoszek says there are three factors that impact the customer's impression of a shop on initial contact: tone of voice, body language and verbal language. However, it's body language that makes the largest impact on the customer. "You can't turn off and on your body language," said Bartoszek.
Listening is also very important to customer service. Bartoszek suggests resisting distractions; suspend judgment and avoid making assumptions; identify the customer's feelings; show that you are listening by nodding your head; and remember what the customer says after they say it.
Shops must also involve the customer in the solution. Bartoszek recommends listening to the customer's whole story and ask questions strategically. Share control of the conversation - never dominate the conversation. And most importantly, build on the customer's suggestions.
Remember that customers will more likely recall the end experience more often that the initial experience. Make sure you are delivering what you promised, when you promised. If unforeseen circumstances prevent you from doing so, make sure you do everything you can to rectify the situation.