Auto dealers are well known for their huge support to local communities. Especially around the holiday season when they do many good deeds including toy drives, donations to food banks and a variety of other activities that have special meaning to those particular dealers. It’s noble not to “brag” about the great things we do as businesses. In fact, many repeat good-deed offenders prefer to stay anonymous. And that’s OK.
Sometimes, however, the smallest of deeds are the ones that touch the most lives.
Take for example, the story of a boy that has been going viral this holiday season. There’s nothing spectacular about him that has been reported. He doesn’t have a life-threatening illness that we know of. He’s simply a boy being a boy… who happened to like playing video games. He liked playing them so much that he visited his local Best Buy every day to play his favorite video game in one of their demonstration kiosks.
If you worked at the Best Buy, it would be hard not to notice the same boy visiting every day, playing video games at your store’s demo kiosk for the Nintendo Wii U system. But, in most cases, that would be the end of the story.
Well, this holiday season, the employees decided to act. These are just normal people working at a retail store. This wasn’t a corporate level marketing play. This was simply a group of employees, at a local Best Buy, who decided that this boy deserved their attention.
What they did was special. In fact, it was so special that the video (one version of it) has been viewed over 7.5 million times on Facebook and over 2 million times on YouTube (again, only one posting of the video). What did those employees do? They all pitched in and bought the boy a Wii U console and a copy of the game he came in to play every day (Super Smash Bros.) as a surprise Christmas gift.
Nobody has mastered the recipe for a “viral video” as of yet… and chances are nobody ever will. This was an act of goodwill by employees at a local business in order to make a boy’s holiday that much better. It turns out that the boy really wanted this game but his family could not afford it. I bet this boy remembers this act of kindness for his lifetime, becomes a loyal customer and passes that along to any children he may have, simply because these employees cared and gave him a luxury that he couldn’t afford.
You don’t have to be a mega-corporation. You don’t have to have a huge in-house marketing department devising acts of goodwill. I’m sure you see this frequently this time of year: That flat tire that can’t be repaired but the owner can’t afford to replace or any numerous acts of kindness that dealerships make.
This act of kindness cost Best Buy nothing, and cost the employees around $400. Eight million views later (and counting), that $400 act of goodwill has paid off for this individual store and for the brand.
It’s not how much you do, but whether you do it at all that counts. Happy Holidays!
What would you do if a customer was injured at your dealership and you were at fault? I don’t mean serious injury or anything like that. Perhaps just a bump or scrape? Most businesses would apologize or, at the very least acknowledge the mishap to the customer. Perhaps send some flowers or a gift card. You certainly wouldn’t want to ignore it, right?
Well, that’s what happened to an American Airlines customer who was injured when an unsecured drink cart barreled down the aisle and crashed into the passenger. No apology from the airlines was ever received (although it is a tad hard to believe that the stewardesses didn’t at least apologize). The customer wasn’t trying to shake down the airlines at all. He just thought that an apology phone call or card would be an appropriate response for American Airlines to make to a customer injured on one of their flights. Even if only for the sake of customer retention.
The passenger did receive flowers and an apology… but not from American Airlines. The geniuses over at Virgin Atlantic heard of the incident and sent the passenger flowers along with a card that read:
“We might not be who you expected these to be from, but we heard what happened and everyone at Virgin Atlantic wishes you a speedy recovery. And in case you ever fly AA (American) again, we’ve got you covered. Get well soon.” The Virgin Atlantic Team
When he opened the box that came with the flowers and card, inside were a pair of kneepads, elbow pads and some other protective equipment. Of course, this passenger couldn’t refrain from sharing what was certainly a humorous outreach from a competing airline. Naturally, the story quickly spread around the Internet.
Being in the car business, chances are that you hear stories like this all the time. Not necessarily someone getting injured at a competitor’s dealership, but perhaps simply someone upset at how they were treated or some other such complaint. Whether you see these stories on the news, the Internet, or via social media, there is a good chance of one underlying fact: that customer will probably NOT be patronizing that dealership any longer. Which means they will need someplace else to do business.
Customer loyalty and retention are fickle things, especially in this world of high-maintenance customers who want everything on demand. Owning and acknowledging your mistakes and making appropriate apologies can rectify most accidents or poor experiences with your customers. Failing to do so can leave a wide-open opportunity for that customer to defect to a competitor.
So, whether it was your customer who had a mishap or your competitors, opportunity exists. If it’s your customer, you have an opportunity to make things right and keep them. If it’s your competition’s customer, this very well could lead to a low-cost customer acquisition and some word-of-mouth marketing – or both. Regardless of which end of the situation you find yourself on, reaching out to the customer when the opportunity arises could pay off exponentially.
Customer feedback is important to any business’ growth. That’s why many send out customer satisfaction surveys and managers pay attention to that feedback.
However, sometimes the feedback system is faulty or gets misinterpreted to the point of being useless. Take the feedback system Uber used to have. At the end of each trip riders were prompted to leave feedback in the form of a star rating from 1 to 5. As Uber drivers are contractors, the corporation wanted to ensure customers received good service and a great customer experience from any given Uber driver. Any driver that fell below a certain star rating was disciplined by the company with a suspension or, in some cases, contract cancellation.
An article in Wired magazine details how Uber came to realize that the star system was faulty. It failed to truly reflect a customer’s experience and was vague to the point of being meaningless. Some people gave 5-stars to a driver even though they didn’t have the best ride, simply because they felt bad doing otherwise. Other customers gave drivers low star ratings for reasons that were beyond a driver’s control, including traffic, or how long it took to get picked up.
Uber also realized that its star system didn’t provide the drivers themselves with any useful feedback on what their customers liked or didn’t like about a trip. Therefore, drivers had no opportunity to improve or correct something as they had no way to know what was bothering their passengers if it was not stated during the trip. Uber has now revamped its system so that it includes the star rating while also allowing customers to give feedback in the form of virtual stickers and, if the passenger desires, they can leave personalized feedback via a note. This provides Uber with a better assessment of the driver and can also instill a sense of pride or fulfillment in the driver for a job well done.
In the auto industry we face a similar dilemma. Manufacturers survey customers and assign CSI scores to each survey. These scores can mean the difference between a dealer making or losing a substantial amount of money. However the surveys are formatted similar to Uber’s old 5-star rating system. Each question is either scored on a 1-10 scale or a Yes/No answer. This provides little clarification to the manufacturer or the dealer as to how the customer experience actually went. In addition, manufacturers assign different weights to the questions so a dealer can receive a failing grade on a survey even if every question is answered perfectly except one. Many manufacturers even consider anything less than perfect (100%) as a failing grade. There is nothing wrong with demanding perfection, but it is tough when the grading system is not itself perfect.
Venture back to your school days. Imagine getting a 90% on a math test. In the real world, that would be an “A” and if you or your child brought home straight “A’s”, you would be proud. Yet a dealer who receives a 90% on a survey could be punished monetarily and, unless the customer actually bothers to write feedback, does not know or have any way to change a process or hold someone accountable. In addition, the manufacturer, just like in Uber’s case, has no true idea of just how the customer’s experience went at the franchisee’s dealership.
This isn’t anything new. Dealers have long complained about the unfairness of survey grading and losing money as a result of the weighted questions which don’t really reflect how their customers are treated.
Perhaps the industry can take a page out of Uber’s playbook. True feedback should be in-depth and judged on an individual experience basis. Only in this way can a dealership be judged accordingly, change any needed processes, truly improve and be fairly rewarded.
In their new book, The Intuitive Customer, authors Colin Shaw and Ryan Hamilton contend that companies that try to fight declining customer satisfaction by lowering prices are going about customer satisfaction the wrong way. Instead, they state that the magic to winning customer loyalty is based on understanding what the customer will do next.
An article in MediaPost, recently shared some of the basic precepts in the book, including the fact that roughly half of a customer’s buying decisions are based on how they FEEL about a company and that understanding the psychology behind why they choose a business is key to tweaking processes and services that cater to those feelings.
Sadly, many consumers don’t like going to car dealerships and if roughly half of customer choice is based on how the customer “feels” about a business, there is a long trail to get there. An interesting point shared in the book is that the most irrelevant aspects of customer experience are often the most important. Some dealers spend a lot of time, money and effort attempting to create an excellent customer experience through increased efficiency, improved technology and dealership premises. What they may not consider are the things that are seemingly irrelevant because… well… they’re seemingly irrelevant.
While a recent trend has dealers installing movie theaters, coffee bars and other amenities, perhaps what really influences the customer experience are the “seemingly irrelevant” actions. Those small actions that go towards improving the customer experience, such as cleaning and vacuuming the customer’s vehicle after it is serviced. Many dealerships wash vehicles but not as many vacuum them. If the vehicle looks great on the outside but not so much on the inside, that could perhaps leave the customer with a less than great customer experience. That’s just one small example to provide food for thought.
The last point the author’s make is how do customers REMEMBER their experience? Do they remember inconvenience, dirty bathrooms, inconsiderate or apathetic employees? What a customer remembers is a completely individual experience.
Everyone is different and there is no way to design an experience that is perfect for everyone. Just as in sales, we tailor how we sell and the tactics we use to each and every customer. Perhaps the customer experience should be viewed in the same way. How about making an effort to establish what provides your customers with the best possible customer experience so that they leave happy, with a memorable experience which they will share with their friends and which keeps them loyal to your dealership.
If you get to know your customers, listen to their needs and wants while paying attention to how they respond to you, the chances of identifying the seemingly irrelevant and making it relevant increases. Customers will then leave with positive feelings and memories. And that means increased customer retention and profitability. In fact, according to authors Shaw and Hamilton, this practice “has translated into a 10% year-over-year sales increase for the past 10 years, reduced customer churn and increased market share.” And that’s definitely something worth striving for.