Focus on Fundamentals Part 5


In previous articles, we covered Sales Basics, Employees, Inventory, Procedures and Processes. All of these areas revolve around the three Ps, which are People, Process, and Product. We will tie all of this together with the importance of Customer Service and the perceptions that are created for individual businesses and the industry as a whole.

What used to be called “Customer Service” is now referred to as “The Customer Experience.”

I believe in keeping things simple, and I also think that less can be more. Recently, I had to make a purchase from Grainger. I’m sure most people in this business are familiar with this company. They are the “go-to” place for pretty much anything industrial.

At the beginning of my call, which was answered by a machine, I was asked if I would be willing to take part in a short survey at the end of my call. Out of curiosity, I said “Yes.” Usually, what this means is that a short call isn’t so short. So, at the end of my order, to my surprise, the survey asked me two simple questions. Question 1:  would I hire the person that just took care of me in my company? Question 2: was I satisfied with my ordering experience? These were two simple questions that really struck me as being very profound.

The next day I was in my office talking with a friend in the business about this, and I had to place another order with Grainger, so I had him listen to this call.  After the machine answered the call and asked about the survey again, it proceeded to tell me that there will be a wait for my call to be answered. I told my friend that I did not hear that yesterday. Guess what, within ten seconds, my call was answered.

The salesperson first identified me as a customer, asked me for my name, and asked me what I needed. Throughout the whole ordering process, she addressed me by name.  I told her that I wanted to pick up my order at my local branch location. She repeated my order to me verbatim, she verified and repeated the location of the branch store where I wanted to pick up this order, then told me when my order would be ready for pickup and asked if there was anything else that I needed. On this phone call, she addressed me by name six times, and this was a small-ticket order with only three items, which totaled less than $75.

Suffice it to say that their sales representatives are vey well-trained. This company realized the importance of the customer experience and proper training and have done a great job of delivering on both.

Have they found the “secret sauce” in how to combine technology and human interaction to compete with the likes of Amazon?

So, how does this apply to us?

Perception is reality. This is what others think of you and your company. What does the Customer Experience mean to you? How do you take care of your customers? Are your salespeople trained to be courteous, professional, and knowledgeable when dealing with customer requests? Do they take the time to ask all of the right questions to ensure that the customer is going to get the correct part? Are they communicating realistic expectations? Remember, it is always best to under-promise and over-deliver.

Warranties: Backing what you sell.
Let’s take a look at customer perception and expectations. A customer is calling you because they expect good service and a quality product. Warranties are like insurance, in that the customer has the expectation that if there is a problem, it will be taken care of. Like insurance, you don’t know if a warranty is good or bad until you make a claim.

When a claim is made by a customer, what do you do? Do you help the customer? Do you find a solution, or do you look for a way out of honoring that claim? The smart approach here is: good, bad or ugly, warranty your product and take care of the customer. Is the cost of not eating a warranty worth the bad will that it will bring?

Remember this, a happy customer may only tell a few people, but an unhappy customer will tell anyone who will listen. With the internet and social media, bad will can now be magnified dramatically. If you want to know how good a job a company is doing with that warranties, just take a look at their online reviews.

Most customers, when researching a company, will almost always look at reviews to help them make their decision.
This is the new “word of mouth” folks, only it is more powerful and influential than ever. Remember this, good reviews will drive new customers to your business, and bad reviews will drive them away. This is perception and this is the reality. Whether it is through reviews or surveys, you should always ask for and pay attention to customer feedback. If you have a bad review, work the problem and offer a solution and an apology if necessary.

Remember, a satisfied customer is a steady customer.

Marty Hollingshead

ARA Secretary · Northlake Auto Recyclers — Hammond, IN

Hollingshead has been in the professional automotive recycling industry for 45 years, including 34 years as President/Owner of Northlake Auto Recyclers, one of the industry’s leading facilities. Hollingshead prides himself on taking a hands-on approach in the business, employing the use of checks and balances for quality control to ensure customers only receive the highest quality parts. Northlake was one of the first automotive recycling facilities in the state of Indiana to receive from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management the Indiana Clean Yard – Gold Level Certification in 2009. Northlake was certified as one of the Indiana Certified Automotive Recycler Exemplary Standards (INCARES) program’s inaugural medalists and was the highest scoring facility in Indiana in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and tied for first place in 2018. Northlake was also the recipient of the 2016 ARA Certified Automotive Recycler of the Year award, having been nominated by his peers in the industry.