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Secrets for Getting Customer Feedback

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Within certain industries and professions, there are no tricks to ascertaining what will make the customer happy—like the hairdresser, for example, who asks, “How would you like me to do your hair today, ma’am?”

For a hairstylist, making an assumption about what the customer really wants would be a BIG mistake, even disastrous. Giving the customer a cut that only the hairdresser thinks she might want could produce a tearful client, at the least, and, at worst, a raving-mad, vocal opponent of the business.

One way to keep your customers from using what many body shops consider their best strategy for marketing and advertising —word of mouth—against you is by knowing what they want. But could it be as simple for an autobody repairman as it is for the hairdresser? Surely you wouldn’t need to ask a customer whose family car was involved in a crash: “How would you like your vehicle today? Fixed?”

A surefire way to set yourself apart from the competition—and most likely to earn customers you’ll keep for the life of your shop—is by giving them what they want and by striving to give more. And like the hairdresser with a pair of scissors in hand and a client in the chair, one of the most effective ways to do this really is to simply ask.

TRY IT ON FOR SIZE

As an autobody shop owner, it’s likely that you haven’t been a body shop customer for some time—or maybe even never, depending upon how early in life you learned to fix cars.

One of the most obvious but underused ways to find out what your customers experience when they use your shop is to be a customer yourself. This can be done by walking the customer’s journey one step at a time and seeing things through your customer’s eyes, says Eric Garner, managing director of the Web site managetrainlearn.com.

“You can even act as one of a special group of customers—such as a person in a wheelchair, or someone whose first language is not English—and see how you’re treated,” Garner says.

Another way to hear from more of your customers might be sending out questionnaires or surveys, asking for their thoughts and opinions in writing. This is one of the most established feedback techniques, Garner says, because, when it’s done correctly, it works.

When Volkswagen designed the new Bug, for example, they sent existing customers a detailed survey saying, “We want you! Your ideas, preferences and constructive contributions will be evaluated and fed into the development process. So tell us about your impressions and ideas for the new Beetle. We’ll do our best!” The result? Air conditioning as a standard and optional lighters and ashtrays, Garner reports.

THE ANSWER’S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU

Several companies offer solutions for garnering feedback through customer satisfaction indexes, including CSi Complete and AutocheX, to name just a couple of those available. But another clear indicator of whether your customers are satisfied—and whether they would consider recommending you to their family and friends—is whether or not they continue to use your repair shop themselves.

“However, while information on sales may be an accurate indicator of how well you are doing at present, it is no guarantee that you are delivering the product or service that the customer really wants,” Garner says. “It may be that you are at present the only supplier in the market, or that you are the cheapest or the most convenient.”

Perhaps one of the easiest and obvious ways to find out what your customers are thinking or feeling is by asking your front-line staff: Those who answer the phones or greet people coming in the door most likely will be the first to hear comments, questions or complaints about your business. They also are likely to be the least costly of customer-feedback sources.

It’s possible that you’re the best collision repairer on the block, in your community or even in the tri-state area. But if people are looking for something more—that extra something that you don’t have or don’t know—you’re wasting your time, Garner says. Implementing one or all of the customer-feedback techniques he outlines could boost your service, your product or your business overnight.

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