Seventy-nine per cent of Members told State of the Nation 2021 they were very or extremely confident about the customer service they provide.
But how confident are you that your newest team members are delivering the kind of service your customers expect?
We spoke to customer service expert Chris Smoje to get his customer service tips, tricks and techniques every automotive business owner or manager should be teaching every new employee—especially those not used to engaging with customers.
Chris’s first piece of advice is that any employee who engages with customers must be attentive to the customer and their needs.
“If I’m being attentive to you (the customer), I notice you, I greet you, I make you feel welcome in the service garage or in the dealership,” Chris said.
“But by being attentive, I also make you feel comfortable. And I use the word comfortable deliberately because I’ve been to places before where you’re coming in to drop your car off and it’s actually awkward. It’s maybe 7 a.m., the staff are running between desks, and you’re just standing there waiting for them to notice you, and it’s awkward.”
Being attentive is about making a customer feel welcome.
- Be on the lookout for customers coming in
- Let the customer know you’ve noticed them, even if you’re really busy
- Welcome them and make them feel comfortable.
The second piece of advice is for staff members is to engage with the customer. This isn’t about making cheesy small talk; it’s about having a conversation that shows you’re interested in the customer and care about them and their needs.
“Taking your car to the mechanic is not like giving your order to a waiter,” Chris said. “Even a waiter probably asks how your day was before they take your order. But a car is usually the second most expensive thing people own, so customers expect more of a two-way conversation with their mechanic or their service centre.”
Chris’s advice is, ideally, to remember something about a customer that you can talk about. For example, if they’ve had a baby since they last visited. But you can also ask how their day is going or talk about the weather or the football—whatever you’re comfortable with and makes sense in the moment.
Chris’s top tip for great customer service engagement is to make the information you need to deliver a part of the conversation. For example:
- “Would it be easier for you if I sent a text or gave you a call to let you know the car is ready?”
- “We’ve got a new coffee machine, if you’d like to help yourself before you head to work. It’s free!”
- “We’ve been trialling a new brand of oil that’s better for the environment.”
Lastly, Chris said it’s important to be warm with the customer.
“We all know what cold is, what it feels like to deal with a cold person,” he said. “There are three things a warm person needs to be.”
- A warm person is genuine. For example, when you say goodbye to a customer, don’t automatically say “have a great day”. It’s what everyone says, so it doesn’t sound like you mean it. Ideally, make your farewell specific to the person: “good luck with your exam”, “enjoy your holiday”.
- A warm person shows gratitude. Let’s be honest, your customer would probably rather be anywhere other than waiting in line for a car service. Show gratitude: “I’m grateful you’ve come in early”, “I’m grateful you’ve waited”.
- A warm person shows empathy. For the customer, there’s lots that’s inconvenient about taking a car in for any kind of service or repair. Let the customer know you’re doing your best to make it pain-free: “I think I’ve put the car seat back where it was. I hope it’s in the exact same position for you.”
It should all feel natural
When you’re onboarding new customer-facing team members, it can be very tempting to provide them with something like a script for dealing with customers. Chris’s final piece of advice is to not be too prescriptive.
“What ties all this together—being attentive, engaging and warm—is that it should feel natural,” he said.
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