What is “service” in auto service? Part II.
LILY continues her exploration of what “service” entails.
In the last article, we have discussed three important criteria of “service” that drivers seek from auto service centres:
1. Service is providing convenience and comfort.
2. Service is providing honest feedback that will please the customers.
3. Service is doing things that make customers remember you for good reasons.
These are practical things that service centres can do, derived from an actual customer review. Here are two more:-
4. Service is demonstrating your knowledge.
Bear in mind that the “click-generation” knows everything, even though not all of them are skillful or can be called an expert. Again, we refer to Google Think’s research:
- The mechanic is experienced; he knows his stuff. The customer feels confident in letting the mechanic repair/service his car.
- The mechanic is trustworthy. The advice makes sense according to the customer’s lay-knowledge.
- The customer is convinced with his choice of mechanic and the service charges.
If demonstration of knowledge had been part of the service culture in this centre, Hassan might have been informed that there are gaskets of different quality (assuming that the better the quality, the higher the cost) and he could have made the choice to choose the better quality one for RM60 rather than the RM20 option; Hassan would have become a regular customer of that centre. Even if he had discovered a gasket selling for less in another shop, he would not have regretted his decision.
Charles, on the other hand, was happy with the “cost effective method”. ‘Cheap’ and ‘expensive’ are relative concepts, which can be managed by helping the customer make an informed decision.
“My major issue settled in recommendation of the most cost efficient way,” said Charles; this particular mechanic had demonstrated his knowledge for this sentence implies that the mechanic had communicated several options that could solve problem and the customer had chosen the most cost-effective one. Well done!
This review also brings about another lesson – do not treat the customers as if they were dumb, giving them inferior quality products at premium prices. Here is another review to further support my point:
5. Service is to “bring drivers back by making their lives easier”.
Many car drivers have calendars cluttered with a long to-do list. Many service centres help their customers by reminding them to bring their cars in for servicing with a reminder sticker, a dashboard reminder, e-mails or phone calls. Life would be much easier if everything is organised and predictable, but we know that that’s impossible. But, a service centre can make it happen.
Again, operating a car clinic is like a medical/dental clinic; both have many similarities. One dentist sees many patients, and a highly skillful dentist is even more highly sought after. An organised method for centres to make the customer’s life easier and maximise service opportunities is:
a. Remind the customer that the car is due for service a few weeks prior, and set the appointment. A ‘thank you’ and a reminder to be on time as appointments are arranged back-to-back, and he may miss his session if he is late.
b. Remind the customer a day before the appointment date, in case he has changed his mind. Otherwise, the centre would have wasted a service opportunity for that time slot.
c. After the service, a short follow-up call to check if the customer was satisfied with the service. A reminder of the next appointment with a text message.
The above three steps are cyclical.
If the customer is late and there is a walk-in-customer, the centre has a choice to service the walk-in customer first, as the late-comer policy had been explained to the customer. The above method has proven very successful in some centres. The requirement for success is to provide very good service at every point. Irresistible service makes the customer choose to abide to his agreed time slot. This may not be the only method a service centre can “bring drivers back by making their lives easier”; observation and listening will give rise to better ideas to differentiate a centre from its competitors.
Ideally, the centre should increase its capacity before expanding the business and garnering more customers. No business can operate at 100% capacity as there may not be enough time for routine maintenance, machines can break down, customers walk in unexpectedly, over-crowded space become not conducive, overworked staff result in reduction of efficiency and so on; all these problems will cause diseconomy of scale.
When all is said and done, the most important thing is for all staff to wear a smile, which speaks a thousand words.
In Part III of my article, there will be some practical suggestions on how to leverage on third parties to increase customer service satisfaction, including in the online world.
Click here to read Part I of this article.