The car service that was short on customer service
At 8:30 on a recent Monday morning, I dropped my car off for a service. I was already in a hurry, but my stress levels started to rise when I realised there was nowhere to park except in a small spot that involved negotiating peak hour traffic on a busy road.
When I got to the office, the receptionist was on the phone with a bank of calls lined up. Eventually she asked for my registration number, which I couldn’t remember because it was a new car. Another staff member rifled through the paperwork on the desk and couldn’t find the details. It was only when I went to the window and read the rego number off my numberplate that they were able to find my paperwork.
I already had my car key in my hand ready to drop it with them and run, but they asked me to take a seat in the waiting area. It was packed with people working on laptops, checking their phones and watching TV. None of them looked happy, and most looked like they’d been waiting a while. They was a coffee and tea area, but you’d have to walk around so many people to get to it that it didn’t seem worth the bother. And in any case I’m pretty sure it was the cheapest and nastiest of the instant stuff.
After 20 minutes I was called back to reception, again, not by my name but by my car rego number. When I got there a man started to tell me what they were going to do to my car during the service.
I stopped him mid-sentence, asked him his name, and said, “Peter, I’ve been waiting to drop off my keys for 20 minutes. Is there a faster way that we can drop off our keys and not be kept waiting to go through this process?” He responded by explaining that he needed to get my signature on the paperwork, and that the whole rigmarole was a process that management had put in place.
At that point, Peter would have washed his hands of it if I hadn’t persisted in asking whether there was a better time to drop off and pick up my car to avoid having to wait. Lo and behold, on deeper probing it turned out that there was an express service where you could put your keys in an envelope and drop them through their glass door. Eureka!
Where did it all go wrong?
Preventing this poor experience could have been so easy if this business had just thought through their various customer touch points:
- On the phone: They could have alerted me to the express drop-off option when I booked my service.
- On arrival: Easy, stress-free parking would have made my whole experience feel much smoother. Bonus points if they’d let me know where to park while I was making my phone booking.
- At reception: Please, call me by my name, not my registration number! How impersonal is that? And if you know I’m coming, please have my paperwork ready for me to sign.
- In the waiting room: Ideally, don’t keep me waiting. But if it’s unavoidable, think about how I’m likely to want to spend that time. Make refreshments appealing and accessible, and provide wi-fi and power for those who want to get online.
- When discussing the job: Start the conversation by asking what my needs and concerns are, not by telling me what you’re going to do. While you’re at it, be clear about when I can expect the task to be completed by, and what it’s likely to cost me.
Do try this at home
You can improve your own customers’ feelings about doing business with you by mapping out each of the touch points they have with your business, and realising that they can really make or break your customers’ experiences.
Done thoughtfully, this process could help you create a real point of difference that will keep your customers coming back time after time, even if you charge a premium for your service. On the other hand, failure to recognise that you’re delivering poor service could drive your customers to seek out alternative suppliers.
Do you have any similar cautionary tales of poor customer service to share? What lessons have they taught you for your own business?