Think of a recent experience with retail that you’ve had, or perhaps a few. It doesn’t matter what it is – Walmart, Lowe’s, American Eagle, Costco, Zales, Home Depot, Michael Kors, or CVS are examples. If you recall your visit, there’s an extremely high chance that it went exactly the way you pictured it going.
When you step foot into Walmart, you’re guaranteed to see elderly people in blue vests and decent prices, but you don’t expect much from the customer service at all. At American Eagle, you’ll see high-quality designer clothes and ripped jeans selling for five times as much as you’d see at Walmart. Costco – well, everything is in bulk, obviously. At CVS, you’ll have an arms-length receipt for your pack of gum, and so on.
Successful retailers have done a fantastic job of creating their brand. Whether it’s a single, standalone location or a chain across the world, their branding will be consistent across every store, as will the customer experience.
That’s how it should be with your dealership too, including the service department.
A Gartner report from a couple years ago found that “When it comes to making a purchase, 64% of people find customer experience more important than price.” Let’s give that some application to the automotive industry, particularly the service department.
As a dealership, the slogan should broadly tell the customer what to expect inside the doors. That’s an introduction to your brand. You’re making a promise to your customers, and you’d better meet their expectations. If you promise “lowest prices on Chevrolet in San Antonio”, you have to make sure no one else can undercut your deals. If your slogan is “where customers send their friends”, your customer experience better be second to none.
Walmart’s slogan, “Always Low Prices”, gives a clear picture of what you can expect inside. It says nothing of high-quality customer service, which is good, because that isn’t what you’ll receive. For Lowes, their slogan, “Never Stop Improving” clearly has connotations for home improvement and renovation materials, as well as customer service, and it holds fairly true. The CVS slogan has nothing to do with receipts, however, instead opting for “Health Is Everything”. That works too.
As a dealership management team, a goal should be to align your brand to the CX across all departments, including the department customers visit most often: the service department.
Dealerships whose brand focuses on giving every customer a great deal have a challenge in the service department. Those same customers who saved thousands on a new car are hit with the same high prices as every other shop out there. You can (and should) provide the ultimate customer experience, but their expectation isn’t being met, according to the brand image.
Dealers who focus on the best customer experience in sales without promising the best price have a high standard to uphold. In the service department, customers might not be expecting the lowest door rate or menu items, but they definitely expect high-quality customer service that can’t be beat.
Depending on your demographic, neither approach is inherently wrong. Do what works for the customer base you have. But one thing you have to do is align your customer experience and brand.
Wondering how? Online reviews are an easy way to find out how your customers feel. Read every online review from the past year to find out how you’re doing. Tally them up in three groups: happy customers who think you’ve done well, customers who thought your prices are too high, and customers who were let down on the customer experience. From there, you’ll see which direction you need to take to align your brand and CX.