Earning Stars

When it comes to customer service, it’s amazing how much the little things matter.
Case in point: I took my car in for service last week. It seemed like a routine deal. Five months ago, when the problem was first diagnosed and the part was supposedly ordered, I felt comfortable in having this Five Star Chrysler dealer make the repairs. Three months later, however, they still hadn’t given me an update on the part’s status. So I called them. No part. No order. No recollection of my existence.
I’m patient and understanding, so I gave them another chance and asked them, again, to order it and call me when it came in. A month later, nothing. Two more calls yielded no results.
Finally, after a fourth and fifth request, the part came in, and I was notified (another three weeks after my final call). The estimate: $481 for a $260 part and an hour and half of labor. For those keeping score, that’s more than $147 an hour for labor.
The bill was reduced after my concerns were presented, but the experience had been horrible, at best. I left the building shaking my head, and I waited for my car to be brought up. And waited. And waited. And waited.
Then it arrived, and my assessment of the experience completely changed. The car was washed, shiny and spotless, appearing like it hadn’t since before our slick winter roads had peppered it with salt and sand. “Sorry it took me so long,” the runner said as he presented me the car. “I wanted to run it through the wash for you really quick.”
And with that little extra effort, months of angst were suddenly erased. I drove home contemplating how I had become so happy with this experience after being so upset throughout.
This type of thing happens to many people, but the message it sent me was simple: The smallest service-driven initiatives can turn the occasional customer into a passionate consumer of your business.
You know, we look to the auto industry a lot as the shining example of the way things should be. It’s clear, however, that they make mistakes just like we do. The difference just might be found in the little things their businesses do to make customers happy in the long run, despite the hurdles the short term may present.
In a time when we’ve become so focused on “earning our stars” through certification programs, the underlying message is that if we put a little more focus on the consumer and make his or her experience the type that we would enjoy, the marine industry wouldn’t face many of the problems it’s known for today. Nowhere is that more evident than in the marine service department, which often finds itself staring down the barrel of blame for those problems. Nevermind profitability for the department — the first step in making money in any business is putting the focus where it should be: on customer service. Isn’t it ironic that the “service” department gets the lowest scores for customer satisfaction?

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