Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2009   by Auto Service World

Managing Expectations Key To Building Satisfaction

High customer satisfaction ratings may give a service provider that “warm and fuzzy” feeling, but they also bring customer loyalty and build parts sales for the aftermarket. And it’s about more than repairing the car properly.

That was the message to Young Executive Society (YES) workshop attendees from Ryan Robinson, senior manager, Automotive Research Solutions at J.D. Power and Associates.

The workshop was held to coincide with Aftermarket Day at Georgian College’s Canadian Automotive Institute in Barrie, Ont., which provides students with detailed insights into the aftermarket. Both are organized by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada. All participants worked on assignments following Robinson’s presentation, looking at ways to manage customer expectations and build customer satisfaction at the consumer level.

“Everybody in this room has a role to play in delivering customer satisfaction,” Robinson told the 40-plus attendees of the YES workshop.

He pointed out that while the recent focus for many repair businesses has been on providing a pleasant waiting-room environment, sometimes including amenities like cappuccino makers and wireless Internet connections, what drives customer satisfaction over the top lies elsewhere.

“On average, more than half of customers don’t stay while their car is being serviced,” thereby making the waiting-room experience fleeting at best. Customer satisfaction, he explained, is built by the way a customer is treated. “It’s not, generally speaking, in the bricks and mortar.”

According to research, it is also not about just the quality of the repair. More than anything, the customer’s service initiation and advisor experience drive customer satisfaction.

High ratings are, he continued, about managing customers’ expectations through proper communication techniques, before and after service.

Customers don’t want to get their car serviced, ever, but the acute “pain points” on which the quality of the experience can hinge occur in three key areas: time management, communication, and knowledge.

For example, doing everything else well but not greeting a customer immediately drops customer satisfaction from 889 to 763. Not getting them an appointment when they desire it is equally damaging; similarly, not having the vehicle ready when promised harms the entire experience for the consumer.

“We know time managing is critically important. It’s not about minimizing time; it’s about managing the customer’s expectation of time.”

From a communication standpoint, it is important to focus on the customer when discussing service, explaining all the work required and asking questions of consumers about their service needs. Customers also want to be kept informed of the status of their vehicle; if it’s ready now, let them know. Failing to do so drops the CSI rating to 786 from 873.

Knowledge, the nuts and bolts of the repair business, can’t be discounted, comprising 16% of what’s important to customers. Understandably, inaccurate estimates are bad for customer satisfaction ratings, but so is missing out on providing helpful advice. When customers have work recommended, customer satisfaction increases (to 839 from 770), suggesting customers view the process as helpful.

There is a delicate balance, said Robinson, in the competition for service dollars. “You don’t want to compete on price; you want to compete on value.”

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