Every dealer knows that providing clients with an excellent customer experience is the easiest and fastest way to win their loyalty. And while there are many strategies out there to help you build a great customer experience, there might also be negative habits going on, that you don’t even realize. On today’s show, we welcome back Joseph Michelli, customer service expert and New York Times best-selling author, to talk to us more about identifying and changing the habits that hold your dealership back.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Joseph Michelli, welcome back to CBT News.
Joseph Michelli: Jim, it’s great to be with you again.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yes, thanks so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule. You are a man that’s very much in demand these days and helping companies around the world with customer experience which we want to talk about today. Why is providing an excellent customer experience crucial for the car industry?
Joseph Michelli: Well I mean really at the end of the day the industry, most people in the industry are not actually manufacturing the cars. They’re not really driving the quality of the engineering in the car. But what they are driving is the engineered experience of the people who are trying to get access to that car. Either through their online inquiries or for those who come into the dealerships to actually experience these cars up close and personal.
Jim F.: Yeah, that’s for sure. They become the face of that brand, don’t they? So if I’m selling Lexus automobiles and I’m the salesperson in the consumer’s mind you’re pretty much the spokesperson for Lexus, right?
Joseph Michelli: Yeah and I’ve worked with the order brand in that area, the Mercedes brand, and in that context we realized that Mercedes brand had its own brand but it was always being delivered by individuals. It was the valet who the car that represented the Mercedes Benz brand to that particular consumer on that given day.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. So let’s talk about the five things not to do in your journey to customer experience. I know you wrote an article on this, I thought it was great. It was spot on. Let’s go right down the line here.
Joseph Michelli: Jim, I liken this blog to being a chef who served a bad meal, right. That’s the last person you want to serve a bad meal to. And I had just come off with a terrible customer experience and so I felt like I had to share. The first thing I say is don’t oversell. People realize that nothing is perfect. We are perfectly imperfect. Those brands that at sale try to act like everything is going to be puppy dogs and roses and rainbows. I mean that’s just not realistic and consumers know it so why do that. Why oversell. Why not sell a positive lullaby that says, “Hey, there’s some things we have to be realistic about but we’re going to take care of you. We’re going to shore at the end it’s all going to be okay.”
Joseph Michelli: I think just get realistic in what you sell because then consumers are more likely to view you as credible and then when those bumps come up, they’re expecting them with you and you could be the shock absorber to get them to the end of the destination.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. And it mostly certainly will, something will always come up, right. As you said there’s no perfect human being, there’s no perfect customer experience really, right. It’s just really how you deal with the bump that comes up that makes all the difference, right?
Joseph Michelli: It can be as simple as when we’re going to deliver the car for you we would like to do that in 45 minutes so we can show you all of the benefits and technology of it. We know that often people are busy but we also know that people can have a better experience if they allow 45 minutes for that delivery moment. People can say “No, I’m not going to do it. I’m going to take five minutes to show me the bells and whistles.” That’s all fine but you’re still saying rather than I’m just going to sell it to you, we’ll do whatever you want, we’ll get you out of here as quickly as you want.
We are saying we think this will create a better experience to you. So let’s not oversell that we can give you the best experience by making compromises. That was the first message that I had in the blog and then I went on to say don’t make your customer chase a solution. I think this is really something that happens a lot of the time. Someone calls in and you say, “You know what, you can get that taken care of by this part of our company.” Well, now I as a customer have to figure out how to get to that part of your company.
Or maybe you’ll give me a phone number of that person over in that part of the company but you’re not doing the warm handoff so I’m going to have to go chase and find that person. I think we frequently handoff and say it’s done.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s very common in the auto industry. I will tell you that after somebody purchases the vehicle and they come back to the showroom and meet the salesperson and say, “Hey, this isn’t really running right or I need to get it in to get floor mats,” whatever the case might be. All too often… And I know I’m painting with a very broad brush so hold your emails. But all too often a salesperson will say, “Oh, go back and see Tom, he’s in the service department. I’m in sales. Once I sell the car they take care of the car after that.” It kind of leaves the customer feeling like, you’re the ambassador to the dealership, can you help me with this process. Then all too often the customer finds themself in line to talk to Bob about the problem.
Joseph Michelli: To take that one step further kind of ties into yet another point that I make in this blog, which is that sometimes we set up the rewards in a way that aren’t in the customer’s interest. Frequently in the automotive industry we found that you would get rewarded once you sold a vehicle. Yes, that’s a wonderful thing, you are the salesperson, you sold the vehicle, you get your commission check. What was interesting is that often times the customer was not getting warm handoff to the service department. That first service appointment was not being scheduled. There was no reward for me as a salesperson to go out of my way to make sure that the customer, which the customer experience which is central, is going to get what they need, which is to be connected to the service department.
In some areas we’ve literally helped make sure that that sales check, that commission check is contingent upon making that warm handoff, that customer getting something of value by having been connected to a real human in the service department. That’s just a transition mindset that says the KPI, the key performance indicator is not just did you sell it, it’s did you sell it and help the customer get through that transition into service.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. And during the sales process while that customer is becoming friendly with you and they’re getting to know you and they’re getting to trust you, the last thing they want is that cold handoff to another department. Whether it be the finance manager to answer finance questions or the service department or the part department, whatever the case might be. They’d like you to hold their hand and they, I think expect you to, right?
Joseph Michelli: Absolutely. I think it’s not just in the human-to-human transition, sometimes the information that’s collected in sales that becomes part of the customer relationship management database. Some of that stuff should be transferred over to service so service knows the preferences of this customer too. Clearly there are firewalls on financial information and other things but there are elements of the relationship that we capture that we could transition over and make that be a positive experience. If you have a service breakdown over in the service department, you can actually do some kind of token gesture that in keeping with what you learned of the preferences of the customer, back when they were a sales prospect.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yes. Very true, very true. Yep. What’s next here. Do not reward behavior-
Joseph Michelli: Go ahead.
Jim F.: No, do not reward behavior at odds with customers needs.
Joseph Michelli: So yeah, I think that most of the time, for example in the blog that I was writing, I was talking about trying to get a service need met. And opening a ticket to get service need met. This was specific to a software company. You open the ticket and somebody calls you back and they said, “I want to get back to you, we’re going to investigate your problem and we’ll be back to you in 24 hrs.” So clearly there is a reward that says you touched the customer within 24 hours and communicated next steps. Well the information is totally worthless in many ways and so they’re getting rewarded for having touched the customer, though they’ve given me absolutely nothing of value.
Worst yet, frequently they’ll say, “You know what. I’m about to close your case because we can’t do anything but we’re handing it off to somebody else.” So now they’re going to be able to officially show from the moment they opened the case to the moment they closed it, it was a short period of time, they’ll get their reward. I as a customer have gotten no benefit. They closed the case, they handed it to somebody else, they’re done, bravo to them. I’m still left in the dark. I think too often we have to think about what is it really that the customer needs and let’s let that be what we test the reward against.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s very true. Very true. Do not use scripts to address genuine human emotions. Talk to us about that.
Joseph Michelli: Well you know I think people just know when you say, “Let me assure you, we will do everything in our power to take care of this for you.” There’s a robotic nature, and particularly if you’re not fixing something for somebody and everybody is using that same script, about the fourth person who says exactly the same words as the other three people did, then suddenly I’m no longer dealing with people. I’m dealing with a script and different faces on the script. I think really what we need to do is let people know some of the key words, the key times to use certain types of words. But really try to get them away from saying phrases over and over again that really echo hollow to a customer.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. And I think customers become just nausea and then they’re just become very sick to that whole experience, right?
Joseph Michelli: Yeah. I think we are hoping that somebody listens to us, looks us in the eye. Says, “Jim, I get that this is a problem. If this had happened to me, I would not be happy either. I totally get that. Let’s think about what we can do to make this work for you. Here’s what I have room to do, what do you need done. How can we find that solution. When do you need it by. Tell me more.” Those words are much more powerful than some, “I’m sorry to inform you that because of some rigmarole we can no longer to XY and Z.” Then the next person comes back and says the same thing.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, yeah. Major problem. Major problems. Do not consider any customer problem routine.
Joseph Michelli: Yeah. Well this is a really hard one for those of us in business. I mean how many cars have you sold today, how many complaints have you gotten about this today. How many customers have you given a quote to and they’ve fled on you and then they call you tomorrow and there’s a sense of urgency and you go, “Yeah, right. Take a number.” This may be our 5,000th of the month but it’s their first car purchase of the month. This may be our seventh customer complaint of the day but this is their complaint, this is their pain point. It’s hard to refresh after each customer and restart. Because it’s a continuation of a sea of customers. But for them this is the most important problem they have going as it relates to their automobile on this given day.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. A customer might trade cars once every three to four years. As a sales person or a manager, you might be doing it three or four times a day. It is a big event for them and I think we have a tendency in the auto industry to forget about that. That it’s a really, really big event in their life. It’s usually the culmination of a goal that they set out for themselves in the beginning of the year or for that month or for that period of time in their life. I think we underestimate that, don’t we?
Joseph Michelli: Yeah. I think some, it’s probably functional, it’s a form of transportation but not for many. I mean automobiles are part of our identity. We express ourselves through the choices of vehicles that we have. It says as much about us as it says about the manufacturer of the vehicle. So I really think that when you’re messing with my car, you’re messing with me. You’re messing with who I think of myself to be.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right, that’s a good point.
Joseph Michelli: If you treat it poorly or there’s a real sense of it’s just another one on the lot, well guess what? So I’m just another… I’m not just another sale to you and not a person.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, that’s a very good point. Very good point. What are some practical solutions and alternatives to these negative customer experience dynamics that you’d recommend?
Joseph Michelli: I think from the very onset we have to select people who have a sense of the importance of people’s feelings, as well as sell. You can sell and have somebody leave that sale feeling terribly. They have been effective at executing a sale but they didn’t really care about the feelings of the human being they sold to. And if you’re not selecting people who give a damn, really, about the feelings of humans, all the sales in the world are not going to be sustainable. So clearly that deeper sense of you are important as a human. If you get that right then it’s a lot of coaching and development. It’s a lot of teaching people how to refocus on each individual and not get lost in the demand of the day. And really paying attention and listening to the wants, needs, desires and solutions that are necessary to effectively sell, to sell and service customers.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yep. I couldn’t agree more. Couldn’t agree more and you know a little something about customer experience. You’ve written a book for Zappos and Mercedes Benz and Ritz Carlton. All on how they treat their customers and what’s made them number one in their respective fields, right?
Joseph Michelli: Yeah I’ve been blessed to work with great brands. Consulting with Mercedes for example. I’m trying to make that experience be differentiated at the dealership level, so yeah, we’ve worked inside these brands and then we get a chance often to write books about their story.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s phenomenal. Your inside view of these companies is priceless and you’ve got another book coming up with Airbnb. The Airbnb Way, that’s not out until fall so hopefully, we can have you back on the show. I’m sure we’re going to have you back on the show many times before fall but love to have you back on the show to talk about that book as well.
Joseph Michelli: Great. Thank you for having me Jim and for your incredible community of those in the automotive industry who are making people’s lives better. I think the industry overall has evolved immensely from the days when my dad and I were kicking tires in that Ford dealership in Florence, Colorado.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Joseph Michelli, customer experience expert, New York Times best-selling author and an incredible speaker. We know because we’ve seen him a number of times and you just do a bang up job and your audience loves you so thanks very much for giving us the time here at CBT News. Very much appreciate it.
Joseph Michelli: Thank you Jim.
The Airbnb Way is available for pre-order and will be released on Oct. 11, 2019.
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