5 Keys to Building Customer Loyalty

-by Sally Whitesell for Fixed Ops Magazine.

These days we’re all focused on making sure our guests are completely satisfied. We seem to think that if they are, they will become loyal clients.

This simply isn’t true.

Loyalty is not built through a satisfactory experience, it is built through something much more important – relationships.

The art of relationship building is not complicated, but it does take skill, time and effort. This is why we teach service advisors to spend about 7-10 minutes performing a walk-around process that includes relationship building at the write-up. If they hurry guests through the process because they are rushing to get the job done, they will miss the opportunity to build a relationship with the client. No relationship has ever been built “real quick.” Without a relationship, clients will go wherever is convenient because they don’t see a difference in one store vs. another.

Google Consumer Surveys confirmed this in a study done in 2013. After surveying over 2000 people, the findings were simple; clients don’t feel there is any differentiation between service facilities. They were quoted as saying, “I feel I can take my car anywhere for maintenance because they are all the same.” This is clear evidence that we can only create loyalty through building trusting relationships.

The first step is to teach your team how to build rapport. The word rapport originates from a French word that means “bring back.” In other words, whatever (vibe, attitude, emotion) our customers send out, we send right back to them. Of course we don’t do this with upset customers, but you will see how the following steps will help your advisors turn these clients around.

Rapport is built through a back and forth communication style that can be learned. Often I remind advisors that we want to talk with our guests not at them. These conversations can help clients feel that we share beliefs, values and behaviors. Here are a few points you can discuss with your team so they can master these skills.

  1. Listen – We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak. In automotive service, just like in marriage, it is critical to practice active listening! Active listening is much more than just waiting for your turn to respond. A skilled active listener will acquire a lot of valuable information, which can be used in presenting a personalized benefit-based presentation and personalized close. RASA is a popular acronym for listening skills and an easy way to help your team remember these steps.
  • Receive- Give your full attention to what your client is saying. This means turn your body towards them, use good eye contact, nod your head, and take notes.
  • Appreciate React and respond with facial expressions, nods and noises such as “hmm,” “I see,” “I understand,” or “oh.” This gives your client positive feedback and lets them know you are truly hearing what they are saying.
  • Summarize- Repeat all shared information back to them. This will clear up misunderstandings, save time later, and prevent mistakes. The worst that can happen is your client will correct you and clear up any misunderstandings now instead of later. Your clients will feel that you actually listened and care about solving their concerns.
  • Ask- Once you have listened thoroughly to their needs and concerns, you may need additional information. Now is the time to elaborate on what they have shared and ask additional diagnostic questions. While they are talking it is time to RASA all over again.
  1. Find common ground – Most clients will share something about their day or their lives during the write up. Often this happens at the greeting or during the walk-around as they share personal information or tell you about their schedule constraints. Other times there may be physical clues in the car like golf clubs or a baby seat. Teach your advisors to find some common ground and use this information to build a bridge. For example, if the client has small children, the advisor can briefly share that they have small children (or grandchildren in my case! See how I shared?) Take note of the word “briefly.” It’s important that your advisors don’t dominate the conversation and waste the client’s time. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. Show respect for their time and money – Most of us have limited time and money when it comes to servicing our cars. Let’s face it; this is a chore and expense we do not want. Your advisors need to make every moment with your clients count. They need to make the interaction enjoyable with friendly conversation or make it productive by justifying your processes. For example:

“In order to expedite your repairs, I am going to ask a series of diagnostic questions.”

“For your convenience, let’s walk around your car together while I gather information.”

  1. Practice mirroring – Successful sales people practice this skill without even trying. They will match their client’s volume, pace and tone while emulating their posture and body language. Sometimes I will come home from a store in a different part of the country and realize I have even picked up their accent. Our goal is not to mimic but rather to be in sync.
  2. Stay Positive – Even though we all have bad days, in business, we can’t let it show. Nobody enjoys spending time with someone who looks and sounds miserable. Your advisors must keep a smile on their faces at all times and treat every single client like a welcome guest in their home.

Anthony Robbins sums it up nicely: “When people are like each other they tend to like each other.” If your clients don’t like your advisors as people, they may be satisfied with your service, but they won’t come back. Everyone enjoys doing business with people they like, trust, and respect; yet in order to establish these qualities we must make an effort to connect.

Think about the companies you enjoy doing business with. Why do you go back? Is it that the product is so much better than their competitors or is it that you have made a connection with someone within the business? I am pretty sure your loyalty has been developed because someone within that business has made you feel like you are important and that they are glad to see you every time you walk through the door. This is also true of your employees. Do your managers connect with your team and practice RASA on a day-to-day basis? Employee retention/loyalty is at it lowest across the board in our industry. Practicing these methods every single day could help us all build some relationships that will pay off personally and professionally.

Sally Whitesell is President of sw Service Solutions, which offers in-store training nationwide and Fixed Ops University; engaging online training for managers and service advisors. Sally brings over 21 years of on-the-drive experience to her training, seminars and books, which include her highly sought after What Drives Women? program and her book, Words That Sell Service.”

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Comment by Sally Whitesell on December 29, 2018 at 8:32pm

Mike, I apologize that I did not see your comment earlier.  I am so glad you found this article helpful! Sharing is the best compliment. Thank you!

Comment by J. Michael Zak on June 16, 2018 at 11:45am

Sally, excellent article and reminder of how to be different than not only other dealers but other providers.  I shared your article with the entire team this morning.

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