By Vic Tarasik, owner, Vic’s Precision Automotive
Over the last seven years, I’ve logged a lot of flight miles and room nights having traveled around the country to various industry functions and 20-Group meetings. This travel has given me the opportunity to experience first-hand some of the best and worst customer service encounters. I’ve flown coach and 1st class, stayed at five-star and two-star hotels.
My expectations of great service increased with the higher expense. The reality is great service is not exclusive to higher-end experiences, or is poor service exclusive to a lower-priced experience.
Excellent customer service is delivering a service experience that exceeds the customer’s expectation, while being remarkable at the same time. It’s easy to forget a so-so experience, even one that meets our needs. But it’s hard to forget when you receive top-flight service.
My wife Marlene and I go to a local Mexican restaurant every Friday and because we are frequent diners there, the hostess always greets us warmly and seats us at our table, even if we arrive with five reservations ahead of us. Nelson is the helper who brings us warm tortilla chips and we never have to put in a request for tea and water; Nelson brings them with the chips right after we sit down. We’ve eaten there for five years and the service has always been as just described until last year, when our experience got even better.
Los Cucos had a turnover in its staff, and next thing you know we had a new server, Sergio. Nelson still worked there and continued to bring us our drink and chip order. He even stepped it up, when he would see us coming, as he would have menus on our table as the hostess seated us.
We had become accustomed to the other server and weren’t sure what to expect with the “new guy.” But, I must say Sergio is one of the best servers in any U.S. restaurant. By the way he takes care of us, you would think we were dining at a five-star establishment. Keep in mind that our average bill is around $20.
Sergio treats us as though we are family and never fails to make sure our food is perfect and everything is to our satisfaction. He takes a personal interest in how we are and if we miss a Friday night, he expresses concern that everything was OK because he missed us last Friday.
One of the most extraordinary things he has done was to buy our dinner when he found out it was my birthday. Sergio is a great example of top-flight customer service because he exceeds our expectations. So the team at Los Cucos, comprised of Rosio, Nelson and Sergio, has continued to earn our loyalty and praise.
5 Tips to Deliver Top-Level Customer Service
1. Plus 1.
Determine what your customers’ needs and expectations are, then meet them and add something to it.
2. Under promise and over deliver.
Whether it’s the price of the repairs, the time you commit to have the work done or the services you performed, always exceed the commitment. Customers love when you come in under budget or provide more than they expected. Good shops always make sure there is at least one no-charge item on the final invoice. Replacing a failed bulb, greasing a door hinge or vacuuming the interior are a few examples of N/C items we do for customers. Alas, in this day of time-conscious customers, having the car ready ahead of time is also a big plus.
3. Stay attentive — listening opens the door for a personal touch.
Listening to your customers during their initial visit or during subsequent phone calls will provide you with the opportunity to pick up on subtle details that will allow you to interact with them on a more personal level. Our customers light up when we ask about one of their sick children or how they played in last night’s sporting event. Developing a personal connection strengthens the customer-vendor relationship.
4. Connect them to your team.
Every first-time customer at Vic’s is offered a personal introduction to each employee, from the owner to the shop porter, during our facility tour. We find this has given us a two-fold advantage.
1. From the employees’ perspective, they connect the customer with the vehicle they are servicing. This, in turn, improves the job quality and overall performance because now it’s not just a car, it’s Mrs. Clayton’s Nissan that she uses for work each day.
2. But the greater advantage is, because we’ve taken the time to introduce the customer to the techs, we’ve created an additional personal connection to the human being who is working on their car.
It’s much warmer to say during a call to the customer, “Charlie, the technician who is working on your vehicle, suggested that several of your fluids need to be serviced.” In the customer’s mind, it’s not just some “guy” behind the wall of your shop. It was that person whom they greeted, who assured them that they were going to take care of their needs. We have found our close ratios improve and our customer retention increases as our customers get to know who all of us are on a more personal level.
5. Last, and most important, thank your customers.
Your loyal customers are the reason you are in business. Being thankful can take many forms. Some shops give gift cards, loyalty bucks or have a customer appreciation day. Sometimes, though, the simplest, least expensive method can have the greatest impact. A handwritten personal thank-you note has the best feedback from our customers. With the fast pace of today’s lifestyle, think of the impact that a personal note from the service advisor or, better yet, the owner would have. When you send this type of communication to your customer it says, “We care about you and you matter to our shop.”
Follow these tips and see how your shop will stand out from the rest of the crowd and how your customers will feel like royalty.
• Note cards: www.abbottcards.com.
• Customer service reading:
– Customers for Life by Carl Sewell, Paperback, $10.19 at Amazon.com.
– Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless: How to Make Them Love You, Keep You Coming Back, and Tell Everyone They Know, by Jeffery Gitomer, Hardcover, $17.14 at Amazon.com.
Vic Tarasik is the owner of Vic’s Precision Automotive, The Woodlands, TX, a 30-year industry veteran and long-time Bottom-Line Impact Group member. His 10-bay, 7,000 sq.-ft. shop specializes in customer service, in addition to expert vehicle repairs. Vic can be reached at [email protected].