A Dozen Rules for World Class Customer Service

There are no secret handshakes; no passwords; and no dues into the club of what I call World Class Dealer Service. Nor are there guarantees, but the odds of success as a material handling distributor improve among the dealers who not only acknowledge but embrace and practice these fundamental principles – which I offer more as reminders than lessons. If gone are the days of easy, effortless sales (and for most manufacturers and dealers they are), then present are the days of service excellence and that includes the service a customer receives from the salesperson. 

1.) It’s All About The Customer Experience! 
You’ve heard this before. But it warrants repeating, as today’s customers are more “service-savvy” and have very high expectations. If your entire dealer organization doesn’t excel in every aspect of the customer experience customers will take their buying power elsewhere. Period. 

2.) Avoid the “Kiss of Death” 
The “Kiss of Death” for any dealer is thinking their service is “good enough!” If you’re not providing exceptional customer service, then you’re just providing service – and that doesn’t set you apart from your competition. Regardless of the size of your company, your main goal is to make every single encounter the customer has with your company undeniably better than that provided by your competitors. Consider what is needed: a minor improvement, training, complete culture transformation, new technology, or a major strategic initiative that will give you the reputation for World Class Customer Service. 

3.)  Just Start Helping! 
Start with your sales team. The impressions formed by them on the phones, in the field, and during demos are largely responsible for developing your reputation. Remind them to communicate with confidence, project integrity, class, and professionalism with every customer interaction. But refrain from ever “badmouthing” your competitors. Remind them that selling is helping. Instruct them to contact your most desirable prospects and ask questions that will uncover their problems. Then, tell them to just start helping these prospects as if they already are customers. In fact, they should help by making suggestions, providing ideas, and offering solutions to their problems – even when there’s nothing in it for them. Why? Because very often it pays back tenfold and plays a strong role in your reputation.  

4.)  Present with Panache 
World Class dealers deliver new equipment as if they are unveiling a million-dollar piece of artwork. A small but meaningful gift is presented. Ample time is spent discussing equipment operation, maintenance, and safety whenever needed.  

5.)  After-the-Sale Follow-up Process 
After the delivery, a “Customer Care” follow-up process is applied. Later that day, the salesperson phones to ask if the customer has any further questions. Two days after that, another call is made, asking how they like the features of the machine. And one week later, another call is made by both the sales person and the service manager to inquire if there are any questions, or if any further help is needed. “We’re always here if you need us,” is the constant message customers hear. 

6.)  Be Showroom Sharp
World Class dealers know that the appearance of their place of business – both outside and inside – forms an immediate impression on customers. How is the outer appearance of your building and property? Is it immaculate? How are customers greeted when they walk in?  Are they approached by someone with an extended hand, firm handshake, and a “Hi, I’m John. How can I help you today?” Or, “Hi! I’m Jane. What brings you in today?” Or do they simply hear, “Can I help you?” How neat is your service area and warehouse? Is everything clean and orderly? Is your tool room well organized? Take a look and see for yourself. 

7.)  Have a Service Department that Shines 
Today, more than ever, the “service” in your service department is critical to your success. Service managers in World Class dealerships communicate clearly and in a friendly manner. Many even over-communicate. They also ask the customer if they would like to communicate via text instead of e-mail or phone if there will be a wait for equipment to be fixed.  

After servicing equipment, the service manager discusses what has been done on the equipment with each customer. They end every conversation with this question: “Have I answered all of your questions for you?” Then, they state, “I’m always here for you. Let me know if I can ever help you in any way. Thank you, Mr. Customer.” 

He or she takes the time to call every customer to inquire on the level of service they received overall. While that is not always possible for busy service managers, a CEO – Customer Experience Officer – steps in to help out. (This is usually an office manager or an assistant to the GM who possesses strong interpersonal skills and acts as the dealership’s ambassador.) While revenues from service are crucial to your business, when a customer is purchasing their parts from you, World Class dealers train their service staff to talk customers through fixing their own equipment whenever requested, and remind them to be patient with the do-it-yourselfers. Let them know that if they are handy with a wrench, “Our service managers will treat you like one of our own.” Even better, live chat is “IN,” as are on-line training videos and other things to help them. When it comes to delivering parts, it won’t be long that you’ll be delivering them with drones. Until then, get that part to the customer as fast as possible and be sure your employees deliver the right one to the right address.  

8.)  Have What the Customer Wants and a Parts Hotline 
Your parts department should be able to do whatever it takes to get parts fast! If you can afford to have a large number of parts in your inventory, the odds are that you have what they need. Take it a step further and add pricing for the easiest and most effective online ordering. Consistently find ways to make it easier to order. Make sure you have a hotline, and a parts staff that is available to monitor the phones from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Your customers should be able to rely on you for prompt, professional service at the most competitive price.  

9.)  Hot Line to the Prez?! 
World Class dealer organizations have a 24-hour hotline that goes to an individual who is responsible for any problem that develops. One dealer president even takes this a step further. If the hotline is not answered in three rings, the call automatically goes to his private cell phone, which he keeps on 365/24/7. Now that’s dedication! It’s also World Class service. 

10.) Welcome and Document Complaints 
You received a complaint? World Class dealer organizations welcome them and thank their customers for bringing issues to their attention. They apologize sincerely. Then, they document them for a monthly review by the executive team to make decisions on any changes that need to be made. Many use them in strategic planning. The goal is to provide a consistently great and flawless customer experience by practicing Proactive Complaint Prevention. 

11.)  Fix It Quick! 
Correct mistakes quickly and smoothly. If a new machine breaks down for whatever reason, fix it fast, or replace it. This costs money. But if you don’t do it, you can’t become known for World Class service. Errors, such as mistakes in billing, can happen. Rectify them with an apology and a graceful comment such as, “I’m so sorry this happened. Let’s fix it immediately.” Carry out remedial action promptly. 

12.)  Set Up a System 
What gets measured gets attention. World Class dealers have a system for customer service excellence measurement. Once a year, they send surveys to measure customer satisfaction in areas most important to the customer. Knowledge provided, consistency of communication, and more are measured. They also measure customer retention rates, response times, and number of complaints. Determine what measures are important to your customers and make your people accountable for improving them.

Many dealers are already following these rules and striving to develop a reputation as a World-Class dealer. I applaud you, but I pose these questions to you:

1. How well am I doing them?

2. How can I do them even better? 

Material Handling Equipment Distributors