The automobile industry certainly offers a wide range of examples of customer relationship experiences. In my opinion, while they seem to be trying to improve the customer experience, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Looking at other industries is of value for those of us in senior housing because we also strive to improve customer experience. We can always look to other industries for inspiration or validation. I’m constantly thinking what are take aways from experiences that offer ideas for improvement or reinforce that we are really doing this well.
When I recently needed to go to a car dealership for service, it was a perfect time to put these observations into play. I find the experience of having my car serviced as excruciating as a visit to the dentist. It simply requires a painfully amount of time.
First, there is always the clipboard guy to check you in. This reminds me of one of my pet peeves when senior living counselors greet customers for a tour with their clip board that makes you feel like you’ve come for a doctor’s visit.
But on a positive note, if you have made a reservation for your car service visit, the clipboard guy knows your name and that’s a nice touch.
The clipboard guy is the gatekeeper to the next person you’ll need to meet—the service maintenance coordinator. They put in motion the work that needs to be done on the car. Despite arriving exactly on time for the designated appointment, a wait is required to meet the service maintenance coordinator.
In the dealership where I visit, the waiting area is not what I would consider luxurious. There’s Wi-Fi that never seems to function well enough for my iPhone’s service. If someone has left a morning paper you may be able to find a few sections remaining to read. They eliminated the coffee bar and refreshment concession when they remodeled this particular dealership, thus you need to bring your own drinks and snacks and hope they last through your visit.
I guess by cutting out the hospitality center, they eliminated personnel and maintenance while hoping people would feel their visits wouldn’t be long enough to require a second cup of coffee or snack.
We always should be gracious hosts when our customers visit our communities. Offering sugar-free snacks options are a nice touch and of course, coffee (decaf and regular) and water. Every community has a dining room so this really shouldn’t pose a problem. If the sales office is located where the dining room isn’t easily accessible, the new style pod coffee makers are a perfect alternative. One of our communities keeps prepackaged snacks to offer and this eliminates soggy cookies. I just think a freshly made cup of coffee is a nice touch.
When you finally connect with the “service representative” you think you’re well on your way but often that is not the case. No matter what service is required, they seem to inevitably frown, click on some additional computer screens and then need to leave their office to consult with the “manager”. That’s not a good sign.
Their body language gears you up to hear what isn’t covered by the service warranty agreement that you prepaid and how much more will be required to pay. When you think there is a light at the end of the tunnel, you find they don’t quite know when your car will be ready—it may be two days or more and therefore you need to see the car rental representative. Of course, you need to return to the waiting area because they aren’t ready for you either.
Again, your name is called and you dutifully follow the third person you have met this morning to their office to fill out paperwork to rent a temporary replacement for your car. When you think you’re almost out the door, you’ll need to wait again for the car to be brought to the service area for an inspection before you can be on your way.
Then there’s the inevitable bad news call in the middle of the day when the service representative –assuming his sad sack tone—calls to tell you the tires have only a few miles left of tread and he wasn’t able to negotiate on your behalf a less costly service. Come now! Do we really think he was negotiating on our behalf? Of course not. He wanted us to believe he had our best interest at heart but considering he works for the dealership, he is thinking of how much he can generate in service fees to meet his monthly quota.
A day later, retrieving a car from service usually tends to go more smoothly as when you began and it’s usually nice and clean and ready to go home. They want to have you leave as quickly as possible and since you can’t get a fresh cup of coffee, why stay any longer than needed.
What the car dealership really excels at is asking for your feedback on their customer service surveys. No sooner than you are on the road, there is a telephone call from the dealership letting you know you’ll be receiving an emailed customer satisfaction survey completion and how important it is to respond. I’m not sure if bonuses are based on the responses but they are very empathic of the importance of your response. So it goes until the next time you return for service.
So what are several takeaway tips:
- Be a hospitable host or hostess and be prepared to offer refreshments.
- Be extremely diligent in being punctual and ready for appointments.
- Acknowledge your customer by their name(s).
- Be considerate of a customer’s time and make sure they may know in advance how long to plan for a community tour and visit.
- If someone will be encountering different community personnel on their visit, let people know in advance who is expected. It’s a nice touch that the security guard at the gatehouse as well as the receptionist is expecting Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So today and can welcome them.
- Be prepared with a brochure kit rather than assembling it when the customer is in the office.
- Send thank you notes that are nicely handwritten and show that you have listened by referencing something that you spoke about with the customer.
Do you have some recent customer experiences to share?