Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2001   by Bob Greenwood

Measure your client’s perceptions then manage to their expectations

Late January and the month of February are "traditionally" a slower time of the year for the average installer business, which provides management the opportunity to measure a very important aspect of...


Late January and the month of February are “traditionally” a slower time of the year for the average installer business, which provides management the opportunity to measure a very important aspect of the business.

Consider that the independent sector is in the relationship business, that is, it is imperative that the installer business secures, builds, and keeps, the trust of his/her clients in order to receive all their maintenance/repair business. It is a competitive world

out there however, in the past, it has been a foregone conclusion that if you really exceed your customer/clients expectations, they will remain loyal to you, and will most likely refer other people to your shop. The fact is though, the definition of “loyalty” is “just a lack of a better alternative”.

The question that arises then, is, “how do you know what your customer/client thinks about your business? Are you sure you are meeting, or exceeding, their expectations to keep them loyal to you?” E. K. Williams & Co. has always believed in the proven philosophy “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” In order to “measure” expectations, and satisfaction levels, consider a different approach, that is, mailing out a survey to a random 100 of your of customer/clients. Notice I said random, in other words, pull the selected names out of a “hat”, or choose the survey participant by putting up all the customer/clients name on the wall and have a your child throw a dart at it to see who receives a questionnaire. Don’t stack the names just to hear what you want to hear, try to make the selection as unbiased and impartial as you possibly can.

Consider asking questions, or a version thereof, that really go to the heart of what your business is all about. Preface the questions with an explanation that point out to the participant a real concern that you want to do it right in accordance to the way “they” would like you to do it, and you would really appreciate their honest input because you truly value their opinions.

Try to measure as many questions, as possible, on as scale of 1 to 10, which in turn would allow you to calculate a satisfaction percentage rating and measure a trend in your business each year, and year over year.

Consider putting a reasonable time frame for a response such as two or three weeks, hopefully receiving the questionnaires back by the end of February. Consider sending a postage-paid envelope with the questionnaire to encourage participation. Consider offering a real incentive for participation such as a free oil and filter change, which should be expressed as a sincere “thank you for letting us know how we really are doing”. As you should expect, not all surveys will be returned, however, plan for a high percentage because the people who do respond have probably been reasonably loyal to your business in the past. They most likely will point out that they are quite satisfied, but they may just comment on one or two little things that you are overlooking. That is what you are after. That is what you want to know. What are we missing to make it perfect?

Consider a letter similar to this:

Dear Client,

All of us at (Your Company Name Here) are always striving to increase the level, and depth, of our services to our clientele.

We are undertaking a review of services, and internal processes, at this time. Looking ahead to the future, we want to ensure that we meet our present, and future, client’s needs. Therefore, we are asking a random number of our present clientele to participate in a survey, and we would greatly appreciate your input.

Could you please take a few minutes to answer the questions below? Your co-operation and straightforward comments are greatly appreciated. To express our sincere appreciation for taking your time to thoroughly participate, all returned surveys will receive a certificate for (insert reward, ie. free oil & filter change here).

Thank you for your time and your comments.

Yours truly,

(Personal Name Here)

(Title)

PLEASE CIRCLE AN ANSWER ON A SCALE OF 1 (Poor) TO 10 (Excellent)

1. How do you rate the response time by our staff to any telephone calls placed by you to our shop?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
2. How do you rate the mannerisms of the management and staff when discussing anything with you?
On the Telephone
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
In Person
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
3. How do you rate the following?
Outside appearance of the grounds
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
1. Inside appearance of the customer waiting area
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
1. Appearance of our staff
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
4. When you have a problem, or maintenance service requirement, with your vehicle, how do you rate our response time to get the vehicle into the service bays to look after your needs?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
5. How do you rate our shop on our counseling and discussions with you as to the service and maintenance requirements that are essential to ensure safe and reliable driving.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
6. If you are a female client, do you feel you get the same respect from all our staff as do our male clients?
(No) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (Absolutely)
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
7. Do you feel our shop can handle ANY problem or service requirement that arises with regards to your automobile needs?
(No) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (Absolutely)
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
8. When the occasion arises, would you recommend our shop to another person or business?
(No) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (Absolutely)
Comments: ___________________________________________________________
9. What percentage does our business get of your automotive service and maintenance needs?
n 100% n 90-99% n 80-89% n 70-79% n 60-69% n 50-59% n Less than 50%
10. Please rate, in order of importance to you (numbering them 1 to 10), the following items when you are considering
automotive maintenance and service needs:
Trust __________
Quality of products installed __________
Personal explanation / consultation __________
Location of facility __________
Hours of operation __________
Qualified technician
s on staff
__________
Service reminder letters __________
Availability of vehicle service history __________
Price __________
Personal follow-up after service __________
11. Are there any additional services or information you would like our business to offer?
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
12. Please be straight-forward about any additional comments you would like to share with us.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Name: ______________________________________________________________________
Address: ____________________________________________________________________ Postal Code ________________
We sincerely thank you for your time, and your comments. It is important to us that we understand how you, our client who is the lifeblood of our business, desires to be looked after. It will be our intent to always exceed your future expectations.

Leave enough space between each question (with double spaced lines) to allow the client to write any comments.

This survey process now becomes part of your annual marketing budget. Every January consider doing a random survey in order to avoid taking for granted the people who truly allow you to grow your business.

Sometimes the questions (not to mention the answers) may get a little scary, but would you not want to know the truth and make the corrections to grow your business? Or are you one of the masses who believe they have such a good handle on their business that their gut feeling knows all, is always right, and asking client’s their opinions is no way to run this type of business? Consider the statement “Fault finding is like window washing. All the dirt seems to be on the other side.”


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