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In the automotive industry, hundreds of customers pass through dealerships on a daily basis. Each of these customers will interact with dealership staff multiple times during their visit - whether they’re there to buy a car, or for a simple oil change. It’s very easy to function as an organization with a focus on efficiency - how quickly can you complete a repair, how quickly can you get someone in and out of the finance office, etc. We are, after all, in a society that’s always on the move. The trend is to speed things up for the customer. By doing so, however, we neglect the biggest part of customer’s experience and the most important piece of the big puzzle that is customer loyalty: personal interaction.
All too often we go through our days thinking that if we don't get complaints, our customers are happy. But, that’s not usually the case. Running the dealership like an assembly line serves only to depersonalize the experience. While you may not hear a complaint, you shouldn’t assume that every one of your customers had a good experience. You’d think that if there was something substantially poor about their experience, the customer would inform you. And some customers would. But what about little things that affect the experience? In many cases the customer either doesn’t feel it’s worth mentioning, or doesn’t think anything will be done about it. Those customers complete the transaction with you and go on their way leaving dealership employees with the impression that their experience was satisfactory, assuming they will return. And, in many cases they do…
Until another company offers them a superior customer experience.
All of a sudden, this repeat customer simply stops coming in. Oftentimes, we’re left clueless as to why. Did we do something wrong? Was there a bad experience that we didn’t know about? Is it a price thing? Did they move? We mine the DMS and email coupons and offers to dormant service customers that used to come regularly, to invite them back. Sometimes they respond or take advantage of our offers, and sometimes we’re left wondering.
So how then are we supposed to know whether a customer really had a good experience during their visit? It’s very simple. We ask.
Human interaction is the single most effective way of gauging the thoughts of another. Just as you can tell when someone isn’t telling you the truth, or is unhappy despite what they may say, the same occurs when your sales manager or service advisor makes sure they speak to the customer before they leave. Take the time to thank the customer for their visit and ask them how their experience went after each and every transaction. This can help to identify problems. Perhaps it was something as small as the fact that the restrooms were dirty, or there were no paper towels. Perhaps the car wasn’t washed to their satisfaction or there are greasy fingerprints in their car. The customer may just leave feeling irritated. Having knowledge of that fact right then would allow you to fix that issue so that another customer does not have the same problem.
Make it a point to train your employees in the importance of conducting exit interviews with every customer. If they’re in sales, a manager TO is the perfect opportunity to thank the customer and ask how their experience was. You’d be surprised how that previously quiet customer all of a sudden opens up when a new face with authority asks them. In service, have your service advisors or, if possible, your service manager do the same thing prior to a customer leaving. Identifying customer complaints or service hiccups can go a long way towards ensuring that the experience for every customer is as optimal (and consistent) as possible. It doesn’t take much to lose a customer nowadays. Taking a few extra minutes with each customer will show them that you care and that will go a long ways towards earning and keeping their business.