Sometimes it’s easier for people to understand something if you can relate it to a game or activity that is commonly known or played; in this case I like to compare our customer service business to the game of baseball since there are so many similarities. Don’t believe me? Then read on…..
Balls and strikes
In baseball a ‘ball’ is a pitch that misses the strike zone. In our business it is an unsuccessful attempt to get a customer to agree to perform an activity that we will get paid for. For example: a service advisor attempts to interest a customer in a maintenance service when they come in on an oil change coupon, but doesn’t know enough about it to sell the job. No harm done to the customer, but no gain for us either.
A ‘strike’ would be an attempt to upsell far beyond what the customer needs, resulting in a resounding “no!” Examples of this may be flushes that are not called for by the factory or are premature to the service schedule. Once again we get “no!,” but now we have a customer who is fastly losing confidence in us. We may get up to three opportunities to make this mistake, by which time the customer is “out!” meaning we’ve lost them for good.
Runs, hits and errors
This is the fun part of baseball where all the action is, just as it is in the service drive. A well trained team will score runs every day and win the majority of their games, resulting in good repair order penetration as well as good customer retention. Think about it for a minute: how many baseball games are won by home runs? Baseball is a game of singles, doubles and triples as well as walks and home runs. All of these result in runs batted in (RBIs.) Most of the home run greats were also at the top of the list for strike outs.
Derek Jeter amassed his record 3,000 hits in the following breakdown:
Singles 2,221 (74%)
Doubles 480 (16%)
Triples 62 (2%)
Home runs 237 (8%)
So too, we win by scoring runs with a combination of hits, very few of which are really home runs. Let’s take a look at some of them.
A ‘walk’ would be similar to the oil change that doesn’t do anything else. Hopefully they didn’t have a discount coupon for it, but at least we retained their business. Nothing lost, but not much gained either.
A ‘single’ would be akin to the oil change with the associated inspections due at that mileage, a minor service if you will. Today this is probably the most common opportunity and, while it is not very profitable, it does tie the customer to you and gets them in the habit of maintaining their vehicle by the factory standards.
A ‘double’ is more like the maintenance service along with some scheduled replacements such as wipers, and filters and unscheduled ones like tires and lights which are found when we do a proper walkaround with our customers. If we’ve done our job correctly early on, the sale here should be pretty simple and we’ll keep our customer with us and not at a competitor.
A ‘triple’ is where it all starts to pay off. We not only get our scheduled maintenance, but now there are some repairs to be done as well and the customer doesn’t question where that work will be done because we’ve earned their trust much earlier in the life cycle of the vehicle. By not getting greedy we are now in position to reap the benefits of our patience.
A ‘home run’ only happens about 10% of the time, and this is because most of the vehicles on the road today don’t need much in the way of major component services but every 105,000 miles, and with timing belts going away that will present even fewer opportunities in the future. If we “invent” services that customers don’t want or need, and pressure them into buying them, the odds of seeing them for triples and home runs are very low.
An ‘error’ is a mistake that we make handling a customer, and let’s be honest, we all make them occasionally. Rather than try to cover them up it’s best to own up and make it good with the customer. Sure they’ll be getting something extra from us, but hey, they advanced a base and are still in our ballpark.
The long and the short of all this is that as the coach, you need to train the team to make all the plays, not just the spectacular ones. Professional baseball is played by experienced athletes who train regularly, and are skilled in their particular field. You don’t see newbies in the major leagues, that’s what the minor leagues are for. Employ quality people and retain them with coaching, training, and progressive payplans. Don’t make the mistake of just going for ‘the number’ every day, you won’t get there and it will probably lose a number of customers that you’ll need in the future. Be patient and invest in your customer base, it will pay off immensely.