Before you think I am nuts, let me explain. The factory gives customer service surveys and dealerships give customer surveys. Everyone seems to talk about Customer Satisfaction Indexes. Measuring your success and failure is obviously important. However, is customer service really about numbers? In customer service, the most important customers are the one’s who hate you the most and the one’s who do business with you the most.


People like to have nice things said about them. Every business owner and their employees would like to feel like they give good customer service. We all love the customer testimonial letters that praise us. How much time do you spend with the customers who don’t like you? How much time do you spend trying to cultivate ongoing relationships and purchases from your best customers?


The customers who don’t like you have a story to tell that can’t be told in numbers. If you want to really find out what your marketplace feels about you, ask the people who work at the gas station, local hotels and anyone who does not know where you work. One hour in a local eatery or tavern may give you more solid information about your dealership than all the surveys ever concocted in history.


When you find people in your marketplace that don’t like you or have a negative perception of your business, you must dig deeper to find out why. Remember that perception is reality to your marketplace. Discussions with your people in your marketplace can lead to simple changes that can lead to massive improvements — “Small holes cause big fl at tires.”


On the other hand, the old phrase that the customer is always right is bunch of baloney. The customer is not always right. Some things that make people upset with you may not only be acceptable for you but part of a purposeful plan. You cannot and should not try to be all things to all people. Define who your marketplace target is and begin to work towards them. Speak directly to them and treat them in a way they want to be treated. There are riches in niches. Targeting your primary audience and your best customers will pay you handsomely.


Your marketplace should be divided into five categories: 1) Active customers 2) Inactive customers 3) Customers of your competitors that own your brand 4) Customers of similar brands 5) General audience.


Write down three ways you currently contact and reward your current customers in an ongoing and even automated manner (and, by the way, three ways is not nearly enough). There is rarely a saturation point to customer contacts and rewards. Do you have a VIP Program for your best customers? Ten to 20 percent of your customers will reward you more than the other 80 percent combined. Your goal should be to take customers that do business with you — let’s call these customers supporters — and convert them to Advocates, who continually buy and service with you and refer you to your marketplace.


Do you have a written, automated campaign to convert inactive customers — ones who buy from you but don’t service with you? Do you have a three-stage letter campaign planned for inactive customers? Do you have an automated campaign involving e-mail, postcards, regular letters, dimensional mail, voice broadcast, phone calls, appreciation dinners/gatherings, special inducements, etc.?


Any dealership can have an intensive and automated process that involves all the necessary media, volume and correct copywriting that utilizes emotional direct response marketing methods that are necessary to retain their customers, reward their best customers and learn from their lost customers.


You must make a commitment to spending resources on the most important thing of all — your most important customers.

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