agrrfpo.tif (135164 bytes)

March/April  2004

CustomerService
   tips for quality service

What Do You Sell?
by Carl Tompkins

Allow me to start with a conversation I recently had with a retail glass shop owner who said, “I’m shopping for a urethane and I need the cheapest product possible, so what do you recommend?”

“I’m assuming that you feel the need to offer customers the cheapest auto glass installation possible and, with this in mind, are you willing to also offer customers the slower performance and service that such products provide?” I responded.

Here we witness a commodity broker mentality that most often will fail at repeat business since customers are in receipt of a product and service that fails to deliver the expected performance.

The mistake made when management runs its business according to this type of philosophy is thinking that low price is all that matters to customers when, actually, customers are after much more than a low price. Shop owners must remember that all customers want the lowest price possible as long as the product and service yields the performance they expect.

Top-performing companies learn to deliver more than what the customer expects. In turn, this dazzles customers into always coming back and into making sure everyone they know achieves that same experience by utilizing that same company.

The key word here is “experience.” An experience is what every company sells and the price provided is only one small aspect of that package. A common fact is that price is relative to performance and, the better the performance, the more justified suppliers are in asking for higher prices. 

The Price of Safety
Think for a moment how satisfied a customer would be if he had a windshield installed by a glass shop that provided the lowest quote, yet had the job done illegally because silicone was used; no safe-drive-away-time was provided; the technician was two hours late showing up for the appointment; no one notified the customer of the tardiness; the technician looked and smelled like something that had just crawled out from under a rock; his van left two quarts of oil on the customer’s driveway; the cowl and wipers were stored on their vehicle roof painted with white pearl iridescence; two prize rose bushes were trampled to the ground; the owner had to scrub his hands repeatedly to remove the dirt left on the car keys returned by the technician; the technician was rude throughout the paper work process; the customer experienced $30 in dry cleaning bills from the stains he received after sitting on the same car seat the technician used in cutting out the windshield; the windshield had to be resealed three times after the job due to leaks; and the customer was put on hold seven times and had to repeat himself four times to four different people before he got to the right person who was able to hear and respond to his complaint.

Do you think that a customer would buy from the lowest bidder if he knew this could be the outcome? Your key is to make sure customers consider the experience they desire along with the price they seek and, by doing so, you will elevate his decision-making process to become more value-based. 

A Family Anecdote
Four years ago, my own father-in-law sought a windshield replacement—and he made his ultimate purchase based on price alone. He had to make three return trips to the same glass shop to repair the leaks, which far exceeded the cost he would have incurred by having the right job done the first time by a qualified shop that offered quality products and services.

I once took a course called Quality Telephone Skills, and one of the tips I learned in the course was that if a customer calls for a quote, immediately agree to put one together for him. This acknowledges that you are listening and willing to meet his request.Since your customers may not know much about how to choose a quality auto glass shop, it is important to next ask a high-gain question—one worded in a manner that gets the customer to think, speculate and provide everything you would like to learn about their needs and opinions—while you are completing the quote. Here’s a good question to use: “While I’m putting your quotation together, tell me, what types of workmanship and services are important to you in having your windshield replaced?”

Be prepared for some silence at this point, because you’ll probably be catching the customer off-guard and he will have to pause and think through his answer. This is good, so do not be the one to break the silence. Typically, customers will respond with “Well, I want the work done right, want quality products and great service.” 

When this occurs, congratulations, because you’ve earned the right to share more information with the customer than merely the quote he originally requested. The three requirements stated by the customer sets the boundary for the experience they desire, so now you can share with them what steps you take to fulfill each category. Under each element you should have a few key aspects of performance management that you provide. Just make sure you deliver them.

Moments of Truth
As I’ve written in previous articles, each element of experience that customers go through in doing business with your company represents a moment of truth and each one resides in order of occurrence on your customer service cycle. Each moment of truth needs to be identified and managed to the degree that your company provides a dazzling experience, meaning that you provide products and services that exceed customer requirements.
Incorporating great training, policies, procedures, equipment, facilities, products and people are the necessary ingredients to deliver a great experience for customers. “Taking the time to teach customers the benefits they achieve when shopping for more than low price is a more difficult process up front but one that yields much happier customers who are more loyal to you in the long run.”

One such example to prove this point comes in the form of a glass shop owner in the state of Washington who works only with the owner of the vehicle in deciding appropriate pricing, products and services. He realizes that the farther away from the automobile and owner that the decisions are made, the more price-sensitive the buyers become. This is because those making the decision are not facing the direct consequences of poor workmanship, quality and service. He is profound and confident in his approach of discussing what products will be used and what his labor is worth in providing the right type of workmanship, care and performance of the automobile. After demonstrating these aspects to the customer, he provides his quotation, noting that it is probably higher than what insurance companies may be willing to pay due to their flat labor rates and contract parts pricing. He closes his discussion by informing the customer that he will be responsible for paying the shop directly and he will, in turn, provide a receipt of payment that the customer can then turn in for reimbursement.

While the insurance industry may not repay the full amount submitted by the insured, the glass shop owner doesn’t feel his company loses many sales because the customer now realizes the difference and is the one with the most at stake, making it worth his while to pay the difference.

Making it Worth Your While
In closing, it is important to understand that the business approach outlined within this article is not going to work 100 percent of the time with 100 percent of your customers. I can assure you, however, is that it does work on a high enough percentage to make it worth your while. The glass shop in Washington doesn’t do nearly the same percentage of business it could do if it played the price game, but it makes a fair-enough difference in profit per each job where it retains the same net earnings when all is said and done.

Be sure to consider everything that goes on around and beyond the windshield that is being installed and remember each aspect is worth more than being free of charge. Sell this total experience to your customers and then watch them come back for more. 

AGRR

© Copyright Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.