Wednesday, September 30, 2009

TLC is Secret to Creating Loyal Customers

Don’t you just hate it when you receive terrible service and the service person doesn’t even recognize how horrible they are? Have you ever wanted to just slap them awake from their service stupor? Where are people’s brains these days? Don’t they know we’re their customers? We’re the ones who pay their paychecks. Why don’t they wake up and treat us better?

The other day I took my truck in for service at the local GMC dealer. They said they could fix my truck in two hours, so I decided to wait in their customer courtesy lounge and catch up on my reading of auto magazines.

After almost three hours I checked to see if my truck was done. When I asked the service manager if my truck was ready, he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know because his computer was down. There was no way for him to look it up.

I asked if there was some other way he could find out whether or not my truck was done without his computer.

“I guess I could talk to the mechanic who fixed it,” he reluctantly suggested. He then waited to see whether I really expected him to do so — which, of course, I did. I could tell he was upset that I was making him go to the extra effort of picking up the phone to call the mechanic.

After the call he told me my truck was done (had been for over an hour), but he couldn’t give it to me because his computer was down. He couldn’t figure out the charges without his computer.

I asked him what he’d do if the computer never came back up. How would I get my truck? He said he didn’t know.

Man, I hate having to think for people!!!!

“How could you figure out the costs without a computer?” I asked.

"I guess the mechanic could tell me how much the labor costs are,” he said. “But I still wouldn’t know how much the parts cost.” Hello! If you had a brain, what else could you do to find out the cost of the parts?

“Don’t you have a book where you could look up the costs of the parts?,” I suggested.

“No. I don’t have a book like that. The Parts Department might, but I don’t.” he responded. Then he sat there. Obviously it never crossed his mind to call the parts department to ask them for the price of the parts.

“Do you think you could call the parts department and get the price on the parts?,” I offered. Duh! I never thought of that!!!

Fifteen minutes later (after I showed him how to compute the sales tax without his computer) I had my truck back and was on my way home.

It’s amazing how quickly a customer can move from a feeling of satisfaction to one of irritation merely by the service provider responding poorly to a minor service problem. I wasn’t at all upset with having to wait an additional hour for my truck — that is until the service manager’s stupidity kicked in.

A lack of responsiveness like this causes customers to become more irritated than necessary. My situation could have been easily resolved if the employee had just responded with some basic TLC.

The common interpretation of TLC, of course, is the Tender Loving Care customers need when they interact with your company. Employees can do a great deal toward creating customer loyalty by taking care of your customers in a tender and loving way .

But, to provide truly exceptional service, employees must exhibit an even greater level of TLC. They need to Think Like Customers. They must see things from the customer’s perspective. They need to see what customers see, hear what customers hear, and feel what customers feel. They need to understand and empathize with the customers’ experience and be in tune to the customers’ needs, expectations and desires. Exceptional service providers anticipate their customers’ needs. They service their customers before being asked. They check in, check up and follow-through. They make sure their customers are happy. They fix problems before they happen. They do it right the first time.

Exceptional service providers know most customers won’t give them a second chance. If they don’t resolve customer problems quickly and effectively their customers probably won’t come back — They’ll Leave Complaining (negative TLC),

Companies who provide truly exceptional service realize it takes Teamwork, Leadership and Commitment to fully satisfy the customer. Most service processes within a company cross over functional lines. To fully satisfy the customer the manufacturing and marketing departments need to work closely together to make sure products will be delivered on time. The sales staff and collections department need to harmonize their goals so their department-specific performance goals are not at odds with what’s in the best interest of the customer and company. Front-line service providers and support functions must cooperate to streamline internal processes to better serve the customers.

This type of coordination and process improvement takes strong leadership from the executive and management levels of the company. It entails having a clear service vision and a company culture that supports that vision. It also requires strict performance management procedures, where employees are held accountable to specified service and production standards. And it necessitates employees who are empowered to resolve customer problems at the lowest levels.

Finally, exceptional service occurs when every employee is committed to treating customers as they would want to be treated. Companies who live the Golden Rule and treat their customers with all of the TLC elements will reap the rewards of having Totally Loyal Customers.

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