Recently a friend of mine went to a dealer to buy a £60,000 sports coupe.  His mind was made up, he knew the model and colour he wanted and his buying decision was already made.  All he really wanted was the special treatment that you just know will come with spending that much money on a car.

I think he really wanted to savour the moment.  So he was the kind of customer we all dream of – somebody who we have never seen before, completely sold on our product and with his money burning a hole in his pocket.   Yet somehow they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of an easy victory.  They lost the sale and he bought another car instead  Quite unbelieveable.

So let’s just find out what they did wrong.  When my friend arrived at the dealer, the sales guys were all in a huddle, talking amongst themselves.  My friend spent a minute or two looking over the cars, but he really wanted some help.  You see, when you are ready to spend £60,000 on a new car, you want to share your excitement and enthusiasm with somebody.

So how did my friend feel when the sales team just kept on chatting, laughing and ignoring him?  He started off a little miffed with them, but after ten minutes of being ignored he became pretty annoyed.  Maybe the sales team all thought he was a tyre kicker?  Whatever their reason, they lost the sale.  By the time my friend felt calm enough to interrupt the salesmen’s private chat without exploding at them, he felt  ignored and was more than just a little annoyed.

Then, adding insult to injury, the salesman showed no interest in selling to him.  My friend was not offered a drink or taken care of in any special way at all, even after he explained he was very interested in a £60,000 coupe.   The salesman showed not the least bit of interest, no spark of enthusiasm to encourage his customer to part with £60,000 for a new car.  In fact, it felt to my friend that they didn’t even want him to be there.  The final straw came when he couldn’t get a test drive until next month.  Would he just like to place his order anyway?

I have seen better customer service from John Cleese in Fawlty Towers!

My friend was horrified that service was so bad from the sales team – and he got really worried about how bad their maintenance department must be.  He left the showroom in a furious mood.  He went straight to another dealer and bought a BMW instead.  I know five or six people that he told about this bad experience in all sorts of detail.  Do you think they will ever go into that dealer now – or maybe avoid the brand altogether?

Customer service is job number one in your business and yet it gets very little attention.  Here are some ideas to use to give your customers a better experience:

  • Set a strong example yourself and make sure your team all know that you expect the same from them.
  • People who don’t care about customers have no place in your business, so don’t tolerate them.  If you have staff who refuse to change and continually make excuses for bad behaviour, get rid of them before your customers get rid of you.
  • Plan a few special customer points of contact to make their expereince of dealing with you a special and memorable one.
  • Ask your customers for feedback so that you know how well you are doing.  Read the feedback and accept it.  If something is wrong, fix it.
  • Focus your efforts on building processes to take care of customer service so that everybody in your business knows what to do in all normal operations.  In the car sales example above, they need to greet everybody coming into the showroom within 2 minutes, and offer them a hot drink too.  Easy, cheap and welcoming.

If we get into tough times with the economy, which looks likely, there will be a lot of companies that go bump.  If you work at making your business better, you can avoid the problems your competitors will face.  Take the challenge – differentiate your business by giving exceptional service and let your competitors worry about losing their customers to you.

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