In today's cutthroat automotive service marketplace, smart tire dealers and service shop operators implement and maintain effective customer call-back programs.
This is an invaluable quality control measure and a major step toward exceeding customer expectations. Or, to put it another way, a call-back program is another form of inspecting what you expect. For instance, do you expect your service personnel to fix vehicles correctly the first time and create loyal customers? If so, then calling customers back to verify the results tells you—promptly—if you're achieving that goal.
Timeliness is extremely important here. Suppose there is some sort of quality control issue such as dirt on a steering wheel or seat, or scratched fenders because a technician didn't use fender covers, etc. Or perhaps the vehicle still is not totally repaired due to a miscommunication between its owner and the service writer.
Savvy managers need to know these things as soon as practically possible so they can address them promptly. The longer they are unaware of these issues, the greater the negative impact on the business' reputation.
When you plan a call-back program, the two biggest challenges seem to be choosing the proper person to make the calls and then deciding which customers to call. Predictably, different bosses take different approaches to each question. For example, some owners or managers block out time to make the calls themselves. They believe they are best qualified to follow up because they understand the nuances of the auto service business. Also, to keep an accurate pulse on their business, they believe they have the biggest stake in knowing customers' responses.
However, other owners and managers believe it's vital to have a totally impartial person making the phone calls. Their argument is that someone from the dealership or service shop is too close to the business financially and, most of all, emotionally. Therefore, they risk being less than objective in hearing out an upset customer and/or reporting the customer's complaint thoroughly and accurately.
The bosses I know who maintain call-back programs prefer female callers. Mind you, the objective of the call isn't to give anything away. But the caller needs to express concern and empathy. Women tend to communicate those feelings more effectively and more easily than men do.
Women also tend to be more detail-oriented than men, so they're more likely to capture important facts and impressions during follow-up calls.
The traits you should look for in a call-back person are maturity, level-headedness and steadiness. Sometimes you find this in a younger person; other times you find it in a retiree who is bored at home and anxious to do something challenging. As a matter of fact, this is a task that's very suitable for someone to do at home thanks to computers and networking capabilities. Or, create a space for the call-back person at the shop or dealership.
Regardless, I think the smartest approach is to route the call-back results directly to the owner. If there are problems, the buck should stop at his or her desk.
Meanwhile, some businesses insist on calling every single customer. Others routinely call, for example, every customer with a bill greater than some dollar amount. Still other bosses simply pull every other work order for a follow-up call. Experiment and then decide what approach suits your business the best and produces the most accurate results.
Decide when you should call customers back. In some cases, the calls are made within a few days of the service or repair. Others call back within a week or two. And still others call back a second time—when any particular warranties on parts and/or labor are about to expire.
Finally, collaborate with your managers and the call-back person to develop a simple, reliable and casual-sounding script so that the caller consistently asks the same question or questions every time. Where appropriate, create a simple document on the computer in which the caller can record vital customer feedback info quickly and accurately.
You may find customer follow-up programs in management software or learn them in a shop management class. No matter, the time to begin tracking customer satisfaction is now. It's simply a smart way to monitor results.
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