Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2014   by Tom Venetis, Editor

Still Failing at Customer Service

Why are we still doing a poor job at customer service and communication?

Why are we still doing a poor job at customer service and communication?

It’s a question I often ask when I enter some service shops and I find customers waiting around to be greeted only to walk away when they have been ignored; others leaving and never returning after speaking with a technician because they still do not know what is wrong with their vehicle or are made to feel ignorant. Others may have a good experience and never return because no one bothered to book their next appointment. Don’t get me started on how often I’ve walked into some shops with waiting areas that are, to be civil, not very inviting, causing many potential customers to leave right away or not to bother entering once that waiting area is glimpsed from outside the entrance. Then there are the horror stories circulated amongst locals about certain technicians or owners.

The mistake some owners make is still thinking of themselves as technicians first, owners second. Murray Voth, Bob Greenwood and other industry experts have been saying this for some time and it needs to be said again. When you decide to move from spinning a wrench and handling a diagnostic tool to opening and operating a service shop, you must begin to think and work differently. You are now a business owner and a manager of staff and operations. You are now focused on how to grow the business and making sure your customers are going to be coming back. It requires a different set of skills and a different mindset. It requires you to think like a customer, not as a technician trying to remove a stubborn bolt or flush a system. Trust must be established and maintained from the beginning; clear communications about vehicle issues must be a priority as well as using the newest communications tools for reaching out to people. Today you are more likely to be communicating with a customer through Twitter, Facebook or text than by the phone or paper-based mail. Some treat customers as an annoyance or can’t wait for the opportunity to run into the bays and help with a troublesome vehicle. Both are mistakes.

A great story I love relating is about how one service operation’s staff helped their boss understand his role. He was the son of the owner and Dad decided that the son, who had apprenticed and then become a technician at the shop, now had to take the reins. The staff said that from now on he had to come to work in a business shirt, tie and formal jacket. That was his new uniform and he was to stay out of the bays. The message was simple: you are now the boss and you must act like one. You have to manage the staff and interact with customers so you can grow the business. As the son tells it, after a week he had settled into his new role and understood his new responsibilities. He is now a business person and manager. And the business has grown and the customers, from what I hear, are very happy with the shop and the staff and the service.