Focus on the Customer

Dec 3, 2009

At the beginning of my training seminars, I ask the question, “Why are you in the detailing business, anyway?” The most common answer is something like, “to make money.”

I respond, “That’s great. After all, we are all in business to make money. But from where does the money come?” This question is often met with a momentary blank stare. Then the light bulb comes on and the trainee perks up with, “The CUSTOMER!”

At this moment in the conversation, I point out that we have a choice in the running of our business-”we can either focus on the money or focus on the customer.

We have all had the experience of dealing with a company that seems to be focused solely on the collection of funds. You feel as though the only thing that is important to the proprietor is getting his hands on your cash.

The problem with this approach is that the person handing over the money is forgotten and sometimes even ignored, discouraging repeat business.

On the other hand, what is the benefit of focusing on the customer instead of the money? Well, most importantly, if you take care of the customer, the money will almost automatically follow. That is, customers who feel like they are well cared for have no problem paying you the price you ask [and sometimes more in the form of tips].

Many other benefits flow from a commitment to customer care. The recipients of your commitment will likely continue to patronize your establishment for years to come. They will also send their friends. These customers will trust you when you recommend that they take advantage of new services that you add over the years.

Cared-for customers will also provide little, if any, objection to cost-of-living price increases.

What is Customer Care?

Customer care begins the moment you and your potential customer first come into contact. It starts with a friendly demeanor on the phone or in person.

We’ve all heard the expression, “let them hear you smile” for phone conversations. It really works. How you answer the phone will determine the new customer’s first impression of your business.

Do you answer the phone in a cheery voice, offering your name and the name of the company? Or do you answer the phone with a gruff “hello” that indicates you’re annoyed or interrupted by the call?

Developing a smiling phone answering line is important for the first impression of new customers, but it is also important as a pleasant, almost homecoming, for your returning customers. With your consistently friendly answering technique, your repeat customers instantly know that they have the right place, and that they are about to be treated kindly and with concern.

In-person contact deserves the same approach. New or repeat customers walking into your shop should be greeted with a smile and a firm handshake [for both men and women].

For new customers, you might want to start with something like, “Welcome to Joe’s Detail Shop. My name is Joe. What’s your name and how may I help you?” You can welcome back repeat customers by acting as if an old friend has just shown up: “Well, hello, Mrs. Jones. Great to see you again. How’ve you been?”

For the mobile operator, it’s the “drop everything” attitude that you show when someone approaches you with a question while you’re working. Stand up from what you are doing, put down any tools, wipe your hands with a clean towel [that you keep in your back pocket for just this occasion], and approach the customer with a smile, a hearty “hello,” and an outstretched hand.

Focus On Their Needs

Customer care continues with determining the needs of the customer on this particular visit by means of a customer interview and vehicle inspection.

During the interview, you first gather pertinent information like the year, make, and model of the vehicle, the last time it was detailed, what level of service the customer is seeking, when the vehicle needs to be done, and any special requests that the customer has. All of this information is noted down on the service order ticket.

Then, during the vehicle inspection, you can point out things that the customer may not have noticed and educate him or her about the different service options that you have. This is a good opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell services.

A great way to show customer focus is to help the customer when he or she has challenges getting the vehicle to you. You might offer free pick-up and delivery, or you could offer to give the customer a ride to work when they deliver the vehicle to you.

For mobile operators, make it as simple as possible for the customer. For example, if working at an office park, offer to pick up the keys from the customer or receptionist instead of making the customer walk out to you.

Continue to show your customers how much you care by delivering results. Complete every item on the work order, especially the special requests, and deliver the completed vehicle by the time promised [or notify the customer as soon as you suspect a potential delay].

Upon delivery of the completed job, give the customer a quick summary of the services performed, including any extras that you might have thrown in. Ask the customer if he or she has any questions. Remind him or her to call you if there are any questions or concerns.

Thank the customer profusely for his or her business. Finally, ask if the customer would like a reminder call for the next service.

After You Get Paid . . .

Customer care continues after you’ve been paid. Send a thank-you card, preferably hand-written. You may also want to send an evaluation card so that the customer can offer feedback on your service.

Should there be any negative comments on the card, call the customer immediately, thank him or her for the feedback and ask how the issue can be resolved.

Should the customer report incomplete or inadequate service, do what’s necessary to complete the job to the customer’s satisfaction. You may have to take a bit of time out of your day to do so, but you will have won a customer for life when he or she sees how dedicated you are to customer satisfaction.

Take the time each week to call your repeat customers who are due for service. They will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to worry about when the car is due.

One of the best ways to create success in your business is to focus on the customer. Treat each customer, and potential customer, like a friend. Take care of the customers’ needs from the moment you meet them until after the job is done.