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Customer Experience creates loyalty

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Customer Experience creates loyalty

I met with a multi-store tire retail business owner recently who had no idea what “Customer Experience,” aka CE, meant. When I asked him about customer service, he knew immediately what to say: “Customer service is taking care of your customers,” he passionately proclaimed.

In this “Age of the Consumer,” taking care of them will not create loyalty most of the time. Customer service is now part of Customer Experience — and a very small part. Customer service is getting your food hot and without a hair in it. Customer Experience is getting the same, but includes talking more about the experience the server created than about the amazing omelet.

The sum of all interactions that a consumer will have with your business is considered by many the best definition of Customer Experience. Your website, print ads, radio ads, billboards, mobile website, physical location are part of the customer journey.

So are driving by your store, adequate parking, signage, phone skills, showroom, bathrooms, employees (sales and technicians), sales processes, the inspection processes and follow-up after the sale. All of these must be thought about in the framework of Customer Experience.

In my experience, many independent tire retailers do not have a Customer Experience strategy/process in place. And those who think they do don’t always follow and enforce it consistently.

Customer Engagement

In this article, we will deal with Customer Engagement through your most valuable asset — your people.

In regard to how the retail tire sales associate engages the customer, let’s breakdown what a business looks like into four “Customer Experience Process” categories.

  1. No process: “We think we do it (but we don’t).”

I will make a bold statement and say stores that have no Customer Experience process/strategy in place typically have a higher turnover rate with employees and customers. Owners and managers get frustrated with their employees and cannot figure out how to motivate them to serve the customer the way they, themselves, serve the customer when they are covering the counter.

Businesses that “don’t do Customer Experience” are not fully engaging today’s consumer and are losing customers, slowly but surely, to the few tire retailers who do. In today’s environment, there are fewer ways to differentiate your business from the larger multi-store retailers. When CE is “missing,” the main reason you are different is price.

Having the sharpest price will not sustain your business. In order to build long-term loyalty while building equity in your business, you must out-perform your competition by engaging today’s consumer through a Customer Experience strategy.

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  1. Sporadic: “We do it 10% of the time.”

Second, there are tire stores that maybe execute some form of CE close to 10% of the time. When “Johnny” is engaged, he will be on his A-game 50% of the time. Perhaps his favorite team won over the weekend and all is well in his world. He will make people feel good either on the phone or in person.

When the aforementioned conditions are not met, Johnny may still be engaged, but he will positively impact only the customers he likes and/or with whom he has a great rapport.

When the owner or the manager is absent, Johnny falls into the 71% of the workforce in the U.S. that is disengaged. Furthermore, this salesperson usually uses price to win the customer’s affection and/or loyalty.

  1. Repeatable: “We have one employee we think does this with some customers.”

Third, I have seen tire stores that have a repeatable process. For example, there will be one person out of three front counter sales associates who engages consumers in a way that could be defined as Customer Experience. Again, this person does not always sell at full price, but sells at a higher price than Johnny. If management is not aware of the amazing people skills these salespeople possess, the salespeople usually end up losing their “serving others well” edge after several months with the organization.

  1. Systematic: “We execute the process all day every day.”

Lastly, there are a few dealers who have a systematic Customer Experience strategy in place. I know of one national chain that has progressed across the national map quickly using elements of CE into their go-to market strategy. The dealership invests a lot of money into continuously training every employee. Remember, training is something you “do,” not something you “did.”

Well-trained employees are happier; as such, they stay longer and rate very high with today’s consumer.

The companies that have trained employees with defined processes are not afraid to open a store next door to anyone. Why? They know how to engage today’s consumer, often without dropping their price.

Implementation

To fully implement a robust Customer Experience strategy in your business is not easy. For many dealers, it requires an entire “culture change” within their organization.

Amazingly, even though the pay off is substantial and difficult to copy, in my experience, few seem to want to invest the money to do it the “right way.”

In the Age of the Consumer, the best way to build equity in your brand is through the implementation of the Customer Experience process.

Even though you should consider hiring an expert to help you implement it, here are a few quick tips any retail business can do to start building a Customer Experience strategy.

  1. Make sure your employees are “happy, happy, happy.” Only happy employees will create the best Customer Experience for your customers. Since not all employees will tell an owner whether or not they are “truly” happy, a blind survey by a third party will virtually ensure you get the real story.
  2. Make sure you understand your customers. Develop a five or six question survey and install it on an iPad or iPhone to properly survey your customers.
  3. Make sure your website and/or mobile website is simple and easy to navigate. Most websites have too much information on their landing pages, which creates a frustrating experience for the consumer.
  4. Have a defined Customer Experience process in place for phone etiquette. Since customers size up your business based on how your people interact on the phone, I believe this will allow you to win over at least 90% of your incoming calls without using low price.
  5. Put the process in writing. It should include each team member’s written job description, with their signatures saying they have read and understand it — and your signature as well. Yes, every employee needs to have a written job description.
  6. Ask yourself, “How can I make the customer feel better without dropping my price so low?”
  7. Encourage salespeople to be “problem solvers” when working with any customer.
  8. Listen for customers asking your employees this question: “Are you the owner of this business?”

In my 10 years in the tire business and working on improving customer journeys, I have found any business that can skillfully manage the entire Customer Experience strategy will outperform its competitors by having stellar customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue and greater employee satisfaction.   ■

Mike Townsend has 27 years of sales and customer experience, 10 of them in the tire industry. As a Six Sigma black belt and professional trainer, Townsend says he “has witnessed every scenario and heard every objection in the retail tire environment across every state in the U.S.” For more information, call (865) 318-4588 or email him at mike@townsendstrategies.com.

To read more Mike Townsend articles, see:

How to motivate your customers

Offering choices and winning customers

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