Remember the golden rule

By Brent Deines
July 1, 2007
AUTO : SALES, WINDSHIELD REPAIR

 

Brent DeinesNew customers might be the key to rapid growth, but customer retention is the key to sustaining that growth and the long-term success of your business. Nowhere is this more evident than in the extremely competitive windshield repair industry. How we treat our customers and respond to their needs often determines whether they do business with us in the future and refer us to others.

Profitability
Experts at Bain & Co., the Boston-based management consulting firm, and the Harvard Business Review agree that improving customer retention by as little as 5 percent can boost profitability by 25 percent to 100 percent. Most companies can improve customer retention by improving their
customer service.

Unfortunately, a lot of business owners believe that as long as they provide customers with a product or service at a good price, they will remain loyal. A good price might be enough to satisfy a customer initially, but it is not enough to retain him or her long term. Someone will always come along with a lower price. To retain a customer, exceed expectations and secure his or her loyalty. The good news is that improving customer retention does not have to be expensive. It’s the little things that mean the most.

Put on a happy face
Smile and stay positive no matter how negative a customer might be. Emotions—positive or negative—are infectious. If you have employees, it’s even more important to stay positive. Have you ever noticed how employees at some businesses are friendly, while at others they have an attitude problem? Almost without exception, the owner or manager of a company sets the tone for everyone else. 

Treat your customers with respect
Make customers feel important by listening carefully to their questions, answering them to their satisfaction and giving them time to answer yours. Let customers know there is nothing more important to you than their business and satisfaction. This is tough to fake, so you need to believe it if you want your customers to.

Turn complaints into loyalty
How you handle complaints is a tremendous opportunity to show customers that you deserve their loyalty. Follow these steps.

1. Let the customer fully explain the problem. Don’t interrupt. Often a customer will tell you how he or she expects you to resolve a problem. Let the customer vent before offering a solution.

2. Do not make an excuse for your company’s mistake. Customers don’t want excuses, they want results. Apologize, even if you think the customer is being unreasonable. This is extremely important, but often overlooked. Offer a reasonable solution to the problem and ask if it is satisfactory. Follow through on your promise.

3. Do not tell a customer that you are doing them a favor. If you do someone a favor, he or she will recognize and appreciate it. If someone is trying to cheat you, nothing you say will change that. Don’t be surprised if the customer’s gratitude is not immediately apparent. Sometimes it takes awhile to sink in.

4. Show customers how important they are to your business. Thank them for bringing the problem to your attention. Assure the customer that correcting the problem is your highest priority, and go beyond his or her expectations to do so.

Measure customer satisfaction
Just because your customers don’t complain doesn’t mean they are happy with your company’s products or service. Only about 45 percent of unhappy customers will complain, and most of them will simply express their disappointment and let it go at that. About 5 percent will actually complain to management and seek a remedy to the problem. That means 50 percent of the people who experience a problem with your company will never say a word about it to you. However, they will likely tell others, and might never do business with your company again. Be proactive by regularly asking your customers what you can do to improve your products and service.

Since you won’t hear from every unhappy customer, do everything possible to ensure 100 percent satisfaction. That might sound like a no-brainer, but one of the biggest problems companies have is an apathetic approach to customer service.

To say that the windshield repair industry is customer service-oriented is the understatement of the year. Same-day and mobile service are the norm, not the exception. Some windshield repair specialists even work evenings and weekends. It’s fair to say we already spoil our customers; still, there is always room for improvement.

Train, train, train
While the recent arrest of several unscrupulous windshield repair operators in Arizona (See Page 26.) is certainly an unfortunate blemish on a largely legitimate industry, even this cloud has a silver lining. The windshield repair industry does not need those engaged in deceptive business practices or those whose workmanship is substandard. Hopefully, this incident will serve as a wakeup call to everyone who has not been properly trained, and especially the few who wittingly practice deceptive sales and marketing tactics.

Watching the video clip of the arrests was excruciating to me, as I take great pride in my work and in the windshield repair industry. It was obvious that the technicians involved had not received proper training and employed business practices opposite to those taught by manufacturers, suppliers and industry associations. Equipment-manufacturer training is inexpensive, as is the National Glass Association’s Auto Glass Repair Technician certification. Both go a long way toward making sure we never see this type of scandal in our industry again and help teach the skills necessary for customer retention. 

Remember the golden rule
There are hundreds of books on the subject of customer service and retention, but it can all be summed up in the golden rule:  “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Apply this principal to your business and watch your profits grow.

 

The author is president of Delta Kits, Eugene, Ore., and chairman of the NGA’s National Windshield Repair Suppliers Committee. Write him at bdeines@deltakits.com.