By Gideon Liddiard, Training Programme Development Manager 
The delivery of exceptional customer service has always been a key success factor in retail environments, including the automotive retail industry. This has never been truer than in our digital age, where the ability to review, rate and communicate our satisfaction (or lack of) has never been easier, and certainly never been more visible to others. Utilising resources such as Trustpilot or Google Reviews, our customers know the thoughts and experiences of thousands of others. Thoughts and experiences that rarely get responses or well-crafted rebuttals; complaints, valid or otherwise go unchallenged, positive reviews go unacknowledged. 
Spend any time on one of these review sites and you will also rapidly become aware that customers do little to differentiate between the OEM and the individual retailers. You will find different overall scores for the OEM and the retailers in their network but digging deeper it’s clear that customers will voice satisfaction, or a lack of it, indiscriminately. To the degree that looking at the overall score for a Retailer or OEM means little, as that score is an amalgamation of reviews and feedback from both. 
Given this fact it places Automotive Retailers in a challenging position, as customers will have a preconception from a mixture of sources. It’s little wonder then that Automotive Retail regularly falls behind Food and Non-Food Retail in the bi-annual UKCSI rankings. With just one OEM in the top 10, Suzuki in a respectable third place, and no other OEMs until you get to Nissan and Dacia in joint 29th place. 
Given the intrinsic link between retailer and brand in the Automotive sector, the role our customer facing colleagues play in building and maintaining customer satisfaction is significant. Certainly, the damage a Service Advisor or Sales Executive in an Automotive retailer can do to the combined brand is orders of magnitude greater than the damage possible from any Supermarket employee to, say, Heinz or Coca-Cola. Yet the importance of this shared ownership of Customer Satisfaction is often overlooked. 
Yet research still shows that across the board, customers do not inherently trust our industry, with almost every brand failing to see the level of trust that high profile brands in other sectors achieve. 
So, what can we do about this? 
A significant difference can be made by first remembering that the Automotive Retailer is not the same as other Food and Non-Food Retail outlets. 
In Sales this is principally down to the ticket value of what we are selling, for most people their car is the second most expensive purchase they make after a house. As such they understandably have high expectations of the standard of service they will receive, it’s a high bar and one that requires Sales staff to have an in-depth knowledge of delivering exceptional Customer Service. This is one reason why the spectacle of the ‘handover’ has become more and more important, often overshadowing the importance of the steps before and after it in terms of customer expectations. With customer expectations at these other stages sacrificed for the ‘big bang’ of the handover. 
Those working in Service Departments have an arguably harder task, given that they are selling a service that has no big ‘reward’ at the end of it. We relieve customers of hundreds of pounds only to give them back their car in, what seems to them, pretty much the same condition it left them in. If they are lucky it’s been valeted. But, let’s be honest, even if it has, that’s a lot of money to, in the customers eyes, clean the car! 
Yes, we in the industry know that a lot more happens, but how often is this explained, to the degree that it will not just meet customers’ expectations, but exceed them? I would wager, not often enough. It’s important to understand that’s the best-case scenario as well, add in the potential of additional Amber or Red VHC work, or an MOT failure and the additional expense and inconvenience that comes with them and you have a perfect storm for customer dissatisfaction. All this without even mentioning the customer satisfaction challenges that come with vehicle breakdowns, warranty issues and recalls! 
The upshot of this is Customer Service Training for the Automotive Retail industry needs to be focused on the unique combination of challenges we face. Simply re-cycling material and content that has been designed for other sectors will not work, they have their own challenges, and the solutions they use are not directly transferable to ours. Which is why the Customer Service Training we have written at Magna has been developed by, and is delivered by, a team who cumulatively, have hundreds of years of experience within Automotive Retail. 
Get in touch today to see what we can do to ensure that your team is equipped with the skills to not just meet your customers’ expectations but consistently exceed them. 
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