Being in Customer Service in the Automotive Industry I pay close attention to the processes, systems and little touches that make one want to come back to a hotel. After all, it seems most Automotive Customers don’t really want to get their car serviced. It’s something that has to be done regularly and when something is wrong; like a dental or medical check up.
I am not for a moment saying the Automotive Industry does not do any of the below at all. Some of you may be well versed in the below.
Here are 10 things I have spotted in a luxury hotel that could be used to improve customer service in an Automotive Dealership:
1. Be a good Host
I personally think the best hotels ultimately get it right because someone is always there for you, willing to help. No request is to great or too small.
Be there for your customers. Accompany them from the moment they step out of their car to the service advisor. Show them the necessary facilities and the features of the dealership that will help them. e.g ask if they would like wi-fi access, ask if they would like something to drink or eat. Check on your customer every so often.
The host should treat the customer as if they were in their own home.
2. Check up on the check in
About 10 minutes after you arrive in your room at a luxury hotel, what do you get? Usually it’s a phone call to check if everything is to your satisfaction, if you have everything you need and if there is anything the establishment can do to help.
If the customer is staying in the dealership while their vehicle is being serviced, check on them after 10 minutes and every so often after that. If the customer is going to be elsewhere for the duration of the car service, give them a call 15 minutes afterwards asking if everything is ok and confirming the service being performed and any other instructions they may have given. They may have forgotten something during the check-in that they were too afraid or did not deem important enough to call you back about, but would be nice to have for them.
3. A ‘Welcome Back’ Pack
When you check into a hotel you get asked what paper you would like in the morning, asked any other questions about what you’ll be requiring, handed any information needed, your keys and you are on your way.
The key is arm your customer with the tools they need to maximise the experience at the dealership. If your customer is going to wait at the dealership (or not) while their car is being serviced, why offer them a welcome pack? This pack is designed to keep the customer happy while the service is being performed and can be customised to the customer.
Some of the things that could be included are:
- Daily Newspaper
- A brief personalised welcome note containing a thank you for chosing our dealership to service your pride and joy, re-enforced offer of assistance if required, confirmed and agreed time of completion, essential staff members or points of contact, expected daily weather statistics etc.
- An electronic device such as an iPad. The welcome note could be on the iPad as well as games to help the time fly.
- A customer loyalty discount on their next service. Make the decision of returning easier.
- Menu of food and drink in the customer lounge. Offer assistance if required again.
- Did you know note: Did you know we offer and pick up and drop off service? Did you know that… etc. anything that assists the customer in servicing the vehicle with you.
- Is your customer accompanied by a small child? Offer a fresh colouring book and a child safe pack of pencils or small toy. Help the parent as best as you can with keeping the child occupied and happy.
- Coupons on any services you offer or offer into any other linked and supporting businesses around the area e.g a 2 for one at the cinemas, pizza voucher etc. Add more value.
4. Own the experience after the experience
One of the best touches that a luxury hotel can provide is assuring that your fantastic experience continues even after you have left the premises. All the good service can go to waste if your customer is going to have to endure a Man vs Wild style adventure to get to their next destination.
Politely ask if the customer requires assistance to get to their next destination. Do they need a loan car? Do they need to be at the airport after? Is there a meeting in 45 minutes.
Organise the transport to be there before hand. Ask for the customers flight number, check and notify the customer of the flights status upon arrival. Does the customer’s car need fuel? Ask their permission to give it a full tank.
Make sure you do whatever you can to ensure your fantastic customer service continues well after you have parted company.
5. Have you eaten?
Some hotels, especially express ones I have been to, recognise that some clients are time poor. They offer a pre-packed breakfast kit to take with you to your destination.
Think of the customer that has been booked in for 7am. Think of the customer that picks their car up after hours. Think of the parent that is accompanied by their children. Have they eaten?
There are a few companies out there such as Travel Fare offering tailored small pre-packaged food boxes. Perfect for:
- The customer who skipped breakfast to drop their car off to you and now have to get to work. Fast.
- The parent who waits at your dealership with an arm full of children. Why not provide them with a tailored “Happy Meal” style food box. Note: It of course must be made abundantly clear what the box contains in case of allergies. Have back up boxes if possible.
- The customer who has worked all day and has to pick up their car at 8pm. Wouldn’t it be nice to leave a nice wholesome snack and drink on the passenger seat for the drive home. You know how famished one can get burning the midnight oil.
6. Express Check Out
As stated above, recognise that some of your customers are time poor. Some customers also prefer not to discuss the work performed and go through every single item on the invoice. Why not have an advance payment system so the customer can simply collect their car. Why not offer a car drop off service? You should be constantly looking at ways to improve the check in and check out service.
7. Keep it spotless
Impeccable presentation in all areas the customer is exposed to is essential.
Luxury Hotels are constantly being dusted, wiped and polished. Showing pride in the dealership will translate in a customer’s mind into confidence in you looking after their pride and joy. It will also be a place that your customers won’t mind being in and returning to. Demonstrate that you care and are proud in the dealership and it will show in more ways than the obvious.
8. Keep it fresh
Stale biscuits/cookies, year old magazines and stained old chairs . Doesn’t exactly say “thank you for the hundreds to thousands you are about to spend with us”.
Keep your customer area well stocked with the latest media. Keep the magazines fresh. Holding multiple copies of the same publication for switchover when the magazine gets tatty after a week, is good planning. Leaving a single newspaper on the table will lead to them being spread everywhere. Why not buy a paper for every customer that arrives? $1.20 each? Recycle the paper afterwards. Always ensure the area is kept as tidy as possible.
Keep good fresh food and drinks on hand. Supply quality bottled water, juices and sodas. There are so many good local caterers that can deliver good fresh food and drinks daily. Work with them to provide a menu that works for everyone. Some larger dealerships even have their own kitchens keeping a constant supply of fresh food moving through to their large customer base. I have even noticed some smaller dealerships now have a professional barista on weekends.
Good coffee machines are not hard to find. It is surprisingly easy to buy a good coffee machine that everyone can use with a service plan to keep everything in order.
Don’t skimp on the beans. At least have a few options. Some customers only drink Starbucks. Supply Starbucks for them. Others prefer Lavazza. What ever the brand, supply premium tea and coffee with great quality, classic accessories to complete the experience.
By doing the above you show that you also care what goes into their bodies.
9. Keep your customers connected
Your customers should not have to put their lives on hold while their vehicle is being serviced. Keep them connected as best as possible.
I suggest that having Wi-Fi is a bare minimum. Have a separate Wi-Fi network for your customers. There are plenty of decent inexpensive routers on the market and plenty of Internet Service Providers with 500gb to unlimited data allowance if you are concerned about usage.
If you are also concerned about security and wi-fi leechers? Change the router password daily and separate the customers Wi-Fi network from the dealerships network.
Provide a quiet area with workspaces for customers who would prefer to continue working.
Customer’s device low on battery? Make sure you have the most popular chargers on hand and multiples of ones for the most popular devices.
10. Maintain your online reputation
The simple fact is this. Your customers talk about you online, whether you think they do, like it or not.
There are plenty of service review websites around. There are online forums for car clubs, car lovers and brand advocates.
With sites such as Tripadvisor, customers are able to review the hotel experience as well as upload photos of their rooms etc. The luxury hotel industry is well versed in online reputation management via sites such as these.
If a customer has had a negative experience and expressed that, a good hotel will apologise and offer to sort the problem out via the official channels. If the customer has had a positive experience, they are thanked and told that the hotel hopes to see them again soon.
Online feedback is to be embraced, utilised and leveraged; not feared. Never argue with a customer online. Never enter into any debate. The simple and most effective thing you can do is apologise for the customer feeling that way and continually offer to assist and fix the problem offline.
Take note of your presence in online directories. A lot of these directories enable reviews, especially Google Places. Chances are you are already in many directories, but unclaimed. If you find these it is imperative that you claim and monitor the listings where a customer can leave feedback so you can action any feedback left.
The above ideas are just skimming surface. Of course there are loyalty programs and other CRM programs to assist in customer satisfaction, but we will get into them in depth in future posts.
Maybe your dealership does some of the above. Maybe your dealership does all of the above, either way it is always the little things that lead to big impressions with your customers.
Most of all, be different and seperate yourself from the majority.
What are some of your tips to supplying better service to customers in Automotive dealerships? Have you taken any tips from other industries and implemented them?
- How to retain your customers (chrislocurto.com)
- 10 Customer Service features Automotive Dealerships can learn from Luxury Hotels (millionsofmyles.com)
- The Mercedes Benz customer experience shines (customerthink.com)