I recently wrote a blog article entitled, “You Can’t Build a Great Organization Around Satisfied Customers.” In that piece I explained how, by definition, a satisfied customer has merely had their expectations met. Period. He is not wowed or impressed. Because of this, satisfied customers are not loyal; they are indifferent and apathetic. According to data published by Service Management Group, who surveyed millions of customer across multiple industries, less than 50% of satisfied customers return to do business with you and fewer than 30% recommend your business to others. Thus if your goal is to simply “satisfy the customer,” you may win some battles but will lose the war.
On the other hand, customers who have been wowed or impressed during the purchase experience rose into the ranks classified as highly satisfied. These customers are loyal, they support you and want to see you become more successful. As compared to satisfied customers, twice as many in this group return to do business again, and three times the number refer others to you. This begs the question: how do you move a customer from being satisfied—having their expectation met—to becoming loyal, wowed and impressed? The answer is found largely in the experience you provide for the customer during and following the purchase. As companies like Ritz Carlton can attest, as well as consumers who fly upper class on Virgin Atlantic Airlines, people pay more for great experiences, and are very likely to return for more of the same.
Sadly, most dealerships create uninspired, stressful and underwhelming buying experiences. They install processes, people and policies that facilitate transactions, but fail to favorably raise a customer’s eyebrows throughout any aspect of the encounter. In fact, many consumers have given up looking for great car buying experiences and settle instead for those they believe will be less bad.
What’s atrocious is that while 79% of surveyed customers rated their buying experience as average or below, 80% of the companies providing said experiences acclaimed the service they provided as superior! In other words, denial rules!
How about you? Does your dealership merely facilitate transactions or do you wow and impress customers throughout their relationship with you? Following are questions that will help you determine the real answer:
- How often does the leadership of your organization speak in terms of creating a great customer experience? If you focus strictly on “getting the deal done,” and moving on to the next one, you are transaction focused. This enslaves you to high ad budgets designed to help you purchase new customers to replace those you are unable to retain. The only time that you’re likely to wow or impress a customer is when they drive by your dealership and notice that you’re still in business.
- Do you hire people who genuinely like, value and care about other people? These traits are normally rooted in an individual’s character. Disney is famously fussy about whom they allow on their team to care for their customers. Walt Disney was once asked why everyone working at Disneyland was so happy. His reply, “We don’t hire grumpy people.” If your staffing strategy is to hire whoever is cheap, available or easy, don’t be surprised when the experiences they create for customers elicit smirks, yawns or curses.
- Do you hire people with competence, and train them to become even more so? While having employees with great attitudes is essential, attitude isn’t a substitute for competence. How tragic that so many dealerships defend and retain loveable losers; those nice folks who haven’t a clue how to consistently perform their job with excellence, much less the skills or talent to do so. If you hire recklessly and then regard training as an expense versus an investment, it’s safe to say that your team is creating plenty of customer apathy towards your dealership, and a steady stream of prospects for your competition.
- Do you hire people with the character to keep commitments, tell the truth and the humility to joyfully serve both customers and teammates? If not, it’s quite likely that you don’t even have a team per se, but a band of mercenaries proficient at creating mundane and miserable experiences for co-workers and consumers alike.
- Have you created a sales and service environment worthy of your product’s price tag? If your people dress like That 70’s Show, speak like street thugs, and do your offices mimic thrift store horns of plenty? Your underwhelmed customers will buy solely on price since they see no value in paying more for a relationship with a company run more like a circus than a business.
- Do you have customer-friendly processes that demonstrate a high regard for your customer’s time? It is impossible to create impressive experiences when you waste a customer’s time through process inefficiencies, employee incompetence or the failure to engage and occupy them during prolonged periods of waiting for the next step in your antiquated process.
- Do you have thorough and personalized sales and service processes that help your dealership extend an initial sale into a long-term relationship? Is your personnel held accountable for using the CRM assets you provide for them? Have you installed internal flagging protocols to identify your best sales and service customers so that you can relate to them and reward their loyalty in a more meaningful way? Is your employee retention high enough to enable you to retain a substantial percentage of your customers? Frankly, if you’re not creating valuable long-term experiences for the customers you already have, why should your dealership be blessed with additional customers to abuse?
- Do you consistently execute these points and others like them that contribute to the customer experience? Your goal must be to remove variation from the customer experience. This can only be accomplished when you hire right, and install strong processes and policies that align with your goal of wowing and impressing customers in order to move them from the uninspiring rank of “satisfied” to the loftier objective of highly satisfied.
Incidentally, the underlying key to creating a great customer experience is to first create a great employee experience, because only highly satisfied employees can earn highly satisfied customers.
My columns in Dealer magazine over the past 12 years have provided ample ammo to help you achieve this end. Thus, the question is not whether you know what to do in this regard, but whether or not you do it. And before you get smug and believe that because you rarely hear a customer complaint that you are God’s gift to your customer you should consider that statistically, only 6% of customers complain. Thus, silence doesn’t imply delight! Nor should you allow the CSI scores that you coach, cajole, or otherwise bribe customers to complete in your favor are a fair reflection of your ability to create great customer experiences.
The truest way to measure the quality of the experiences you create for customers is found in your ability to do three things:
1. Retain significant percentages of your customers and earn their referrals.
2. Have margins that testify to the fact that customers see significant value in the sales and service experience you create, and are willing to pay more to do it.
3. Your ability to consistently spend less on advertising than your competitors, since your wowed customers serve as your unpaid sales force.