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Who is that swearing? Oh, it’s our customer

Admittedly, most unhappy customers don’t resort to swearing. Still, 16 percent (mostly men) do admit using curse words when talking with someone about a product problem. And, since we’re rapidly approaching the prime boating season when, because so many things are happening all at once in our dealerships, customer complaints are usually at their highest, it’s a good time to look at the subject.

It is true that most people report getting angry when they perceive they’re getting poor customer service. More than half of respondents (56 percent) admit to having lost their temper, according to the most recent “American Express Global Customer Service Barometer.” It’s a survey conducted in the U.S. (and nine other countries) examining attitudes toward customer service. Moreover, 64 percent said they believe companies either “take their business for granted” or “are helpful, but don’t do anything extra to keep their business.”

Interestingly, consumers ages 30 to 49 are the most frequently angered (61 percent). Young people ages 18 to 29 are more patient. Those who have lost their temper in a poor service experience express their displeasure in several ways, including insisting on speaking to a supervisor (74 percent) and hanging up the phone (44 percent). And, 20 percent threaten to switch to a competitor.

Now, if you want to tick-off a customer, just tell them to go to another source for help! That, says the survey, is the No. 1 customer irritant. Telling a customer “you’ll have to go here or you’ll have to do this” will just about guarantee an irate response. And, just behind that one is No. 2 - putting customers on hold and causing long wait times.

It’s important that every employee in the dealership understand we can never win an argument with a customer. If we lose, we lose directly. If we win, we still lose - the customer! Regardless of how the customer is acting, we must avoid reacting negatively; bite our tongue when necessary; be aware that solving that customer’s problem is important to the future of the dealership; and grasp that an unsatisfied customer can do a lot of damage.

In the days before the world went digital, we normally had the opportunity to personally take a customer aside and work out a way to solve his problem. Today, however, an angry customer can grab us by the shorts with just the click of his mouse! In the age of the Internet and social media, everything is rapid-fire, very public and even global in audience. A negative word by an unsatisfied customer can become a runaway train for a dealer.

On the other hand, the positive “word-of-mouth” generated in social media by solving a customer’s problem and providing excellent service is far more valuable these days than any other form of advertising. In fact, customer service isn't even just a place to simply meet expectations any more. It’s now where the dealership team should be empowered to go the extra mile, to faithfully follow up with the customer, and be beyond just fixing problem.

Everyone on the team should take time out now to talk over the policy that allowing any customer service to go south just isn’t an option for today’s dealership.

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