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The Customer Experience Begins with Empowered Employees

In our competitive industry, a great customer experience is essential for developing and nurturing loyalty and retention. Many dealerships focus on providing an ever-increasing amount of amenities and luxuries as a necessity for that experience. However, the truth is that all the luxuries you can add won’t change anything if the most important piece of the customer experience puzzle isn’t in place – engaged employees.

I came across a sad fact recently. Did you know that around 70 percent of employees are not happy across all industries? Based on the high turnover numbers at dealerships, it would seem logical that that statistic is certainly true in our industry.

Study after study shows just how important engaged, empowered and happy employees are to the success of businesses. A great infographic posted recently reports some study results and highlights the fact that companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20 percent. They are also 12 percent more productive. When it comes to sales, happy employees produce 37 percent more sales and 36 percent of employees would actually sacrifice $5,000 per year in salary to be happier at work! Knowing the incredible value of happy, satisfied employees, how do managers take that knowledge and actually implement it?

The first step is to look inside. Managers may be wise to ask themselves if they like the people that they work with and that work for them. If not, how can they expect their co-workers to be happy? And, let’s take it a step further down the line — If the manager isn’t happy, and the other staff walk around with long faces, then how can anyone expect the customer to be well serviced and happy? Employee satisfaction directly impacts the customer experience. So, what can managers do to unite the staff and ensure that they are happy? It all starts with trust.

Building trust is vital in developing and sustaining customer relationships. But, that trust cannot be built unless your employees trust you first. How often do employees have to jump through a bunch of red tape to correct something for a customer? Does the customer have to go through several employees to get a small upset rectified? The leaders in customer experience trust their employees with the power to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one simply by empowering them to make decisions. This shows the customer that the business cares about them. It also shows the employee that they are trusted to make the right decisions. The Ritz Carlton chain of hotels does this to the tune of $2,500 per guest, per day!

Once you begin to establish trust with your employees, the next step is to analyze the environment in which your employees work and the environment that the customer perceives when they walk into your showroom or service drive. If a customer pulls into the service drive and is ignored and made to wait; while they perhaps see overflowing trash cans, messy technicians that look miserable standing out back smoking cigarettes; do you think that is going to build confidence in your dealership? No. Not only that — if your employees are doing this, you can bet that they are not happy and feeling fulfilled at work.

Take a step back and really look at the environment that your service employees are working in. Is their workplace friendly, inviting and well lit? Some of the best service centers I’ve seen are ones where the service advisors and technicians are very busy. But, they are always friendly and out to make friends, not enemies. They are happy and satisfied with their jobs. In nearly every case these successful service departments are busy because the employees have been given the tools and technology they need to better manage their duties and be more efficient. These tools free them up to do proper meet and greets, spend the time needed with a customer and to quickly provide those customers with the solutions they are looking for. The ability to quickly address customer concerns about service or payment issues creates happier customers. This in turn provides greater job satisfaction for the employee, as they feel better about their performance.

One of the primary responsibilities of management is to ensure that employees have the resources they need to solve problems, right at their fingertips. Removing any obstacles that prevent employees from performing their job responsibilities efficiently should be a priority.

If your dealership could improve in this area, start by studying the barriers that prevent employees from doing a good job with customers. If the service drive is getting a lot of traffic at a certain time of the day, have a look at the traffic and see if you can find a solution to help speed things up. Or, are there some tasks that could be taken out of the advisor’s hands that they don’t necessarily have to do? Take a look at some of the new technologies out there that can streamline the service department such as automatic alignment machines; fully integrated online service appointment scheduling systems that help load balance your service bays; mobile tools for inspections and vehicle walk arounds; and digital systems that help identify guests for the advisors and pre-load all the customer and vehicle information. In addition, many advisors spend a great amount of time trying to reach customers to get approval for service recommendations. Ensure that advisors have multiple channels – text, email and phone — to communicate with customers. This increases the likelihood that the customer is reached, responds faster, and that the vehicle gets repaired on time, making for a happy customer.

Most people work to live rather than live to work. Knowing the importance of happy, healthy employees, why not develop programs that incentivize employees outside of their work. Do you offer programs that help them stay healthy? Are there opportunities for advancement available for them to work towards?

Too often we get so focused on hitting goals that we forget about the people who drive those numbers. Remember, many studies prove that happy employees are more productive and add to your bottom line. So, take the time and invest in the wellbeing of your employees. This transfers into customer satisfaction. And, when you have both, there is no greater ROI to be had.





About The Author: Tony Orlando is CFS’ Vice President of Partner Development.  More than 15 years Automotive retail, OEM and third-party lead provider experience. Two years dealership sales and service experience and 13 years with both import and domestic OEMs. This is Tony’s second automotive startup company. He spent three years with TrueCar cultivating its business in the Southwest states. Maintains relationship with over 600 franchised automotive dealers and industry leaders. Tony has a Business Administration and Marketing degree from Mary Washington College Fredericksburg, VA.


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