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Customer Service 3

On the road to modern customer service, a company could consider extending its opening times. This has been the case in the utility vehicle repair sector for some time now. The loss of earnings caused by vehicle downtime can quite easily exceed the cost the repairs, which makes the stop-over in the workshop on a Saturday, or the quick repair in the late evening, an attractive alternative. It's about time there was a stand-by duty, also for private customers!

The condition for this, is a certain structure, there must be qualified technical staff with certain all-rounder qualities. They must also have access to the spare-parts stock-rooms, to keep the personnel requirements within reason. A certain amount of understanding and judgement concerning accountancy is also expected of the respective mechanic. He must, if necessary, be able to decide, whether or not, for this repair, sufficient credit- worthiness exists.

The argument, that we are becoming specialists, is a fairy tale. The individual employee has more responsibility rather then less. Previously it would have been unthinkable, that apprentices would be driving €70.000 customer-cars around. Nowadays, one even places such cars in the mid-range category. Employees should give some thought to the size of the average account in car dealerships. If the economic situation is sound, and with it the incomes as well, the customer doesn't think about it all that much, but …

Some employees, despite being very friendly, have difficulty in bringing their activities for the customer into some sort of sensible sequence. Sometimes the cup of coffee is more important than the estimate which has just been made, the presentation of the company more important than the collection date. What's missing here, is the absolutely necessary ability to see the situation from the customers point of view. Most customers have an "importance-scale" of how they would like to have their problems taken care of:

1. Good, high value handling
2. Quick, on schedule delivery
3. Reasonable, cost-saving execution

Never underestimate the 3rd point, particularly not in times of a recession. The prices are in free-fall and particularly the discounts being negotiated at the regulars table in the pub, can reach astronomic heights. This is where a conception that was previously intended for leasing customers, comes into play. Cars are being sold including servicing for a certain number of years. The customer does not need to concern him/herself with inspection costs and the dealer can slightly conceal the discount given.

In the meantime, there is a sort of hierarchy of responsibility inside the companies. In the first place, from the foreman to the customer. It will be partly transferred to the respective mechatronic technician. This is documented, accompanied by his signature. This system can be compared with the label "This engine was assembled by John Smith" found on the engines of noble sports-cars. This is the reason why brand-name products can be mostly more expensively offered. Someone has taken over the responsibility.

Newer conceptions take it a step further still. They transfer the customer-concept to the workshop and even include the apperentice. He is now called "an internal customer", which means that he must work to the satisfaction of the journeyman and the foreman. Departments compete against each other for the customer's favour. Negligence in this area can be sanctioned in gradated measures. In the USA there is, or was, a system where the mechanic rented a car-hoist in a workshop and then settled the account with the customer himself. We may also be working in a similarly personalised manner in the future.

And remember, not only the next repair depends on the satisfaction of the customer, also his/her next new-car purchase. Don't believe for a minute, that you will always know when the customer is dissatisfied. Mostly one is annoyed only afterwards, and only one person out of twenty-five complains. However, everyone spreads it around, word-of-mouth travels like wild-fire. Think about how much effort is required to draw new customers to the workshop. Apparently one hast to apply six times as much effort. All together, one could compare the right customer-service attitude with a football match, the fans are more inclined to forgive a defeat, if they have experienced just how much effort their own team has made. 03/10

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