Before you hand that form to the customer, stop and think.
“This isn’t a doctor’s office,” says Keith Brown, owner and CEO of Brown’s Collision Center.
A customer should be treated as more than a number in a pile of names, Brown emphasizes.
But, the one move a doctor’s office nails? Consistency.
A patient can walk into an office and know he or she will receive the same information from everyone at the front desk and that filling out a form will be required.
For a body shop, consistency in customer service can make the difference between a loyal customer and one that walks away.
Fifty-seven percent of customers have stopped buying from a business because a competitor offered a better experience, according to a study by Salesforce, a customer relationship management solution. And, 75 percent of consumers expect consistent experiences across multiple channels.
Brown has grown his body shop to span five separate buildings at one location in Bentonville, Ark., and learned the key to keeping customers informed properly was through consistent communication among his 26 employees (who work on 135 cars per month and generate $4 million in annual sales). In fact, his customer might never see other buildings except for the office building, so proper customer service is vital.
His solution was to cross-train employees so that if a customer walks into any building, a team member knows how to help.
“It’s all about giving the customer no surprises,” he says.
Brown walks us through his approach to cross-training his team so that if a problem ever occurs, any one on his staff can take over and assist the customer.
As told to Melissa Steinken
“The first step is to have your new hires shadow the other employees.”
After you hire someone, make sure not to dump them into the deep of the pool, so to speak. I have my new hires shadow the other employees for a few weeks at a time. They will sit and observe how that employee, like the front office receptionist, carries out job duties. It’s critical for the new hire to see how we treat the customers. We want the hires to see that we really put a personal touch on helping customers.
During this time, we train our employees to do more listening than talking. By observing the other staff, they’re learning to listen like they should listen to the customer’s needs.
“Consistent customer service is all about keeping a consistent routine.”
I want every customer treated with respect and treated the same by every employee. I keep enough front office personnel on hand so that customers don’t wait long after arriving. My customer service representatives will acknowledge the customer upon entering the door and make eye contact, and then will be helping the customer within 2-3 minutes. The customer never waits longer than 3 minutes.
I tell my staff that, if someone calls, whoever is closest to the phone has to answer it within 3 seconds. Often, customers will call with common questions. By prepping my team for how the customer might act, each person is more prepared to deliver the same level of customer service.
“I have anyone helping with an estimate go over each line with the customer.”
The employee should always go over the estimate line by line with the customer. This way, the customer is not surprised by any charges further into the repair and my team emphasizes that the estimate is just that: an estimate of how much it will cost to repair the damage.
Then, I tell each of my employees to ask the customer a question. Ask them, “Do you have any questions for me?”
“My employees can reference an employee handbook at all times.”
The handbook is not as thick as the Bible but it contains every shop procedure. I keep a physical copy of the book in each building. Each book is tailored to that building’s department. For example, we have one book for the paint department and one for the front office. This way, if someone is sick or on vacation, another employee can fill in for them and reference the handbook.
“I make sure to review my employees each quarter.”
I think it’s important to consistently check in with my employees. I conduct quarterly one-on-one meetings with each employee that last about 45 minutes.
During the meeting, the staff fills out a survey. I want them to fill in their goals for the next quarter, tell me how they think they performed for the current quarter and share what areas they could improve upon. I can assess if my training is working or if I need to go back to the drawing board and start a new process.
“Every day, the whole team meets.”
It’s important to meet every day for about 30 minutes with the whole staff. This time is vital for everyone to learn the schedule of repairs and ongoing customer issues. My general manager always leads these meetings.
Without daily meetings, the production team could be working on a customer’s car and the front office team might not know where the team is in the repair. If the front office team doesn’t know where the car is in the shop, how can they properly inform the customer? This is why it is important for the whole team to meet together every day.
SHOP STATS: Brown's Collision Center Location: Bentonville, Ark. Operator: Keith Brown Average Monthly Car Count: 135 cars Staff Size: 26 (6 front office/20 back-end) Shop Size: 10,000 square feet. Annual Revenue: $4 million