Last time I went to my car dealership (because I was too lazy to do the switch from winter to summer tires myself), I got really mad.
I had called to book an appointment, chose to come at a time when they wouldn’t be swamped with the morning rush of people bringing cars in before work, and told them I’d wait, since it should only take about 20 minutes to change the tires. (The tires are on rims.)
Many Car Dealerships Act As Though We Had No Options
So I get there at the appointed time, and the guy in the service bay says, “Things are pretty busy today, so it might be a couple of hours before we can get to it.”
I reminded him that I had booked an appointment. “Oh,” he tells me, “The appointment is just to see the service rep. It has nothing to do with when we’ll actually get to your car.”
So what the hell is the point of booking an appointment? I should have just driven in at 8:00 a.m. when they opened!
I once switched doctors because mine routinely made me wait an hour or more, didn’t apologize, and had a lousy “bedside manner”. I finally found a good doctor, and I’ll wait for him because I know he cares about me, if he’s running late it is because somebody else needed more time than expected, and the odds of finding someone better are pretty low.
But when I pay a premium to get my car serviced (regularly, I might add) at the dealership, there are other options. Those other options are cheaper, and may even treat me better.
Not only does bad customer service make customers look elsewhere for car maintenance, it gets them looking elsewhere to buy their next car.
We Pay a Premium for Service at a Car Dealership. So Why Aren’t We Treated That Way?
Today’s guest, Joseph Michelli, author of Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way, talks about the painful realization at Mercedes that they were losing business to a competitor who had what Mercedes engineers insisted was an inferior product.
The customers were leaving because the other product was close enough, and the customer experience was way better at the competitors’ car dealerships.
So they realized they had to become the best at customer experience quality, not just car engineering quality.
This interview talks about how they made that transformation.
“It is less about how much you spend and more about how kind and thoughtful you are in the delivery” – J. Michelli
Topics covered in the interview include:
- The challenge of getting the car dealerships to buy in to the changes.
- The key roles of the 3Ps of Promise, People and Process.
- How to find the money to make major improvements to customer experience.
- The process Mercedes-Benz used to change how people thought and acted.
- Shifts in reward systems and measurement tools, so that people didn’t just focus on lagging indicators like their J.D. Power ranking but instead worked to improve the leading indicators that make customers happier overall. (See my interview with Lynn Hunsaker for more about leading and lagging indicators.)
- The key role of the CEO (and the possibilities for incremental change even without initial CEO buy-in)
- How even small companies, without the big-bucks resources of a Mercedes-Benz, can dramatically improve customer experience.
These lessons aren’t just for a car dealership or auto manufacturer. We can all learn from them.