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In every company, at some point in time, customer service mistakes happen. And, they are often magnified by the fact that the customer-facing employee cannot handle the situation on the spot. The upset customer is kept waiting while the employee checks with management, or worse, the customer leaves disgruntled!  

 
Well, rather than have an irritated customer on their hands, many companies now empower their front-line employees to defuse situations and make decisions on their own to quickly handle the upset customer. For example, the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain empowers its employees to fix problems by allowing each employee a discretionary budget of $2,000 per guest per day. That may sound like a lot – and it is – but the hotel chain trusts its employees to make the customer happy without going overboard. This discretionary fund allows employees to fix problems instantly, immediately returning the customer to a great experience and, perhaps, even further impressing and building loyalty.  
 
Today, in our highly competitive automotive industry, it’s all about the customer experience. How about empowering your employees in the same manner? I’m certainly not suggesting that you give your employees $2,000 worth of discretionary budget. But what about $50 to fix a mistake, or right an inconvenience? It costs a heck of a lot more than $50 to acquire a new customer, should you lose one due to some upset that was left unhandled. 
 
Consider starting a “Customer Love” program at your dealership. Every time a customer is inconvenienced, do something small for them to show that you care. Train your employees in the best way to do this and then trust that they won’t abuse this system. You’ll find that they don’t. In fact, the employees will feel more engaged and less helpless when confronted with an upset customer. In the end, everybody wins! 
 
In no way should this program supplant top-notch service. It is simply another tool to make your service better should a process fail, or a mistake happen that negatively impacts one or more customers. Customers will appreciate the gesture and most will forgive the mistake. Rather than leaving the dealership upset, they will leave with a positive perception of their visit, despite any inconvenience.  
 
It’s great to always aim for “Wow!” But, when you fail, as long as the customer believes you’re genuinely sorry, and is shown that through an apology and a token gesture – perhaps a free oil change, a refund for service they just received, or a complimentary detail – the customer will more often than not forgive.  
 
You won’t always execute perfectly -- but when you don’t, you simply need to be willing to show your customers some love and say you’re sorry in a meaningful way.

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Tags: automotive, best, customer, dealership, loyalty, mykaarma, practices, retention, service

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