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How does the customer see a dealership?

Seeing a dealership from the viewpoint of a customer isn’t easy and won’t always come naturally. But it’s worth it, suggests Micah Solomon, a customer experience consultant, speaker and the bestselling author of “High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service.”

Every dealer has a point of view about his or her business, the customer’s experience and the quality of their customer service. But for many businesses, that point of view can be off by 180 degrees. In essence, it signals a failure to experience how the dealership feels, looks, tastes and even smells from the customer’s view point. It’s amazing, even chilling, how different this perspective can be.

Solomon gives a simple “chilling” example. Ever wonder why it’s so chilly in your favorite restaurant? The reason: Restaurant work is hard, physically active work. Employees are on their feet, hustling all the time. Good employees, helpful employees. But no one realizes that sitting down, expending zero calories as a customer waits for dinner, is likely to cause that guest to have a different sensitivity to temperature.

In assessing how customers perceive the business, it’s important to review and eliminate things that are intended to be simple, but are actually confusing or difficult. For example, does the dealership’s website violate common usability rules and expectations? Or, in the storefront, is the well-intended handicapped-accessible entrance actually blocked by products or racks of marketing materials? According to Solomon, that’s quite common.

It’s important to make visiting the dealership easy, not arduous. For example, it’s not a good move to put a customer into a bad mood by the time he or she even gets into the showroom because it’s hard to park right up front or the address and signage isn’t clear or the hours are incorrectly posted on the website.

Particularly important is eliminating elements that make a dealership come across as untrustworthy. For example, pricing that leads the customer to assume it’s all inclusive but isn’t. Signage should be very clear i.e. signs that say “from as low as $$$$” should also include information such as “Boat, as shown, is $$$$$$.” Also, whether tax, title and delivery are included or not. And remember, with the Internet, customers are likely to have researched prices before arriving. That frame of reference, good or bad, will have them make a quick judgment about a dealer’s trustworthiness.

Solomon makes the following suggestions to get started. First, the stark reality is there’s no “we’re there now — we’re done” in customer service. It’s a process that continues forever.

Next, do things like park where your customers park. If that’s not near the showroom entrance because the staff has parked there, well, you know what’s needed. Now enter the showroom through the same door customers enter. See exactly what they see. What’s the message?

Always try to read what your customers or prospects might read such as online reviews of the dealership or boat brands. It’s also advisable to take time and read what people are saying about the competition. It’s important to recognize a customer’s journey to a dealer might not have begun on the dealership’s website or at showroom’s front door. And regularly log in the same way customers log in (no insider override) to check the website.

Solomon offers a lot more insights and suggestions in his book (www.micahsolomon.com). But his recommendation that every dealer make a point to look at the dealership just like a customer can be a step in the right direction that could lead to increased sales, better customer service and, eventually, loyalty.

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