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Who is that swearing? Oh, it’s our customer

Admittedly, most unhappy customers don’t resort to swearing. Still, 16 percent (mostly men) do admit using curse words when talking with someone about a product problem. And, since we’re rapidly approaching the prime boating season when, because so many things are happening all at once in our dealerships, customer complaints are usually at their highest, it’s a good time to look at the subject.

It is true that most people report getting angry when they perceive they’re getting poor customer service. More than half of respondents (56 percent) admit to having lost their temper, according to the most recent “American Express Global Customer Service Barometer.” It’s a survey conducted in the U.S. (and nine other countries) examining attitudes toward customer service. Moreover, 64 percent said they believe companies either “take their business for granted” or “are helpful, but don’t do anything extra to keep their business.”

Interestingly, consumers ages 30 to 49 are the most frequently angered (61 percent). Young people ages 18 to 29 are more patient. Those who have lost their temper in a poor service experience express their displeasure in several ways, including insisting on speaking to a supervisor (74 percent) and hanging up the phone (44 percent). And, 20 percent threaten to switch to a competitor.

Now, if you want to tick-off a customer, just tell them to go to another source for help! That, says the survey, is the No. 1 customer irritant. Telling a customer “you’ll have to go here or you’ll have to do this” will just about guarantee an irate response. And, just behind that one is No. 2 – putting customers on hold and causing long wait times.

It’s important that every employee in the dealership understand we can never win an argument with a customer. If we lose, we lose directly. If we win, we still lose – the customer! Regardless of how the customer is acting, we must avoid reacting negatively; bite our tongue when necessary; be aware that solving that customer’s problem is important to the future of the dealership; and grasp that an unsatisfied customer can do a lot of damage.

In the days before the world went digital, we normally had the opportunity to personally take a customer aside and work out a way to solve his problem. Today, however, an angry customer can grab us by the shorts with just the click of his mouse! In the age of the Internet and social media, everything is rapid-fire, very public and even global in audience. A negative word by an unsatisfied customer can become a runaway train for a dealer.

On the other hand, the positive “word-of-mouth” generated in social media by solving a customer’s problem and providing excellent service is far more valuable these days than any other form of advertising.  In fact, customer service isn’t even just a place to simply meet expectations any more. It’s now where the dealership team should be empowered to go the extra mile, to faithfully follow up with the customer, and be beyond just fixing problem.

Everyone on the team should take time out now to talk over the policy that allowing any customer service to go south just isn’t an option for today’s dealership.


2 comments on “Who is that swearing? Oh, it’s our customer

  1. Jeff Scherer

    Good point Norm. The ease, speed, and breadth of the internet has certainly completely changed the customer service dynamic, to say the least. Handled properly by the business, the majority of upset customers can be changed into raving fans. Some additional points that companies should take note:
    > “Listen” in to conversations about your company. If you don’t know about an issue, obviously you cannot correct it. Setting up Google Alerts for your company is one way to help monitor this.
    > Act quickly. Tardiness in addressing and responding to a problem can be interpreted by other readers that you are a company who “really doesn’t care.”
    > Offer a sincere apology and a means to make it right.
    > Don’t get into a fight. Even if the customer is wrong (yes, that can happen), do not take a defensive position. Mistakes can be made by either side, but even if it’s not your fault, it IS your problem.
    > State your remedy or course of action- publicly. This is the age of corporate transparency and again, this shows that you acknowledged the issue and are willing to take measures to correct it.

  2. Chuck baier

    Unfortunately this concept either has been ignored by many manufacturers and dealers or they just haven’t got it yet. We have a small personal blog that only gets about 200 visits a day but that totals about 73,000 visits or more in a year. The blog is a detailed account of outfitting our boat and we are quick to give praise to products that work and just as quick to critique products that fail. We often post reviews on line also and to date have never seen a response or received one ourselves from a manufacturer even though our blog posts show up on search engines like Google when customer are looking for information. I get the impression that they feel like if they ignore this information it might somehow go away. We have had several readers of our blog buy a product because we posted positive results and just as many that avoid a product because it failed. And that’s the ones we know about. Today’s consumer starts with the Internet so the information there may very well be the deciding factor in making a purchase. Manufacturers and dealers should be working full time to monitor their online reviews and discussions and making corrections accordingly, or taking advantage of the positive information put out there by the consumer.

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