Dealers share four steps to a consistently excellent customer experience
One of the most important aspects of customer service is consistency. It doesn’t matter if a business is selling trucks or double cheeseburgers, once customers have a quality interaction with a business, they expect that experience to be replicated every time.
In the cheeseburger world, that means following a recipe and cooking instructions to the letter.
It’s harder in the truck world. Because of the number of products and services offered by medium- and heavy-duty truck dealers, developing a consistent, replicable customer experience requires a substantial commitment to employee training and corporate messaging. It may take a dozen ideal customer experiences to earn a customer’s loyalty; it only takes one mistake to lose them.
Here are four key areas dealers must focus on to ensure a consistently excellent customer experience:
Improve personal interactions. “One thing we’ve always focused on is serving the customer first,” says Brian Murphy, vice president of sales at Bruckner Truck Sales. “It’s not always about making a sale. We want to help them first and foremost.”
Murphy says Bruckner Truck Sales has made that commitment evident in the way it trains its employees. Bruckner sales and service associates receive all the vehicle and component training one would expect from a 26-location dealer group, but the company’s training isn’t focused exclusively on product lines. All Bruckner customer-facing employees also are provided guidance on how to interact with customers in person or over the phone. The company also universally encourages candor and transparency, with Murphy adding when it comes to serving customers, “the company has always done what we said we were going to do.”
Be the expert. Creating teams with specific areas of expertise is another way dealers can ensure consistent messaging toward customers. This is most common in new truck sales departments, where different sales associates become experts on particular duty cycles and vocational segments so any customer inquiring about that type of vehicle receives the same sales person and information. Sales specialization also cuts down on the amount of technical information a sales person must remember, says Jerry Kocan, dealer principal at Four Star Freightliner.
“It’s hard to talk about a dump truck and then immediately shift to talking about a 72 in., sleeper with collision avoidance. They are such different applications,” he says.
Dedicating associates to a single brand offers a similar advantage, adds Brian Harrison, president and CEO at Harrison Truck Centers, because it ensures every brand receives unwavering support.
Align marketing messages. There’s also the issue of corporate marketing. Dealers failing to align their marketing messages or delivering customer experiences that do not to meet their advertised capabilities may turn off customers and weaken the perception of their business.
At Doggett Freightliner, Vice President Paul Burk says his company dedicates time during its annual corporate planning sessions to develop its yearly marketing plan and how it will be executed. Department meetings are then used to brief all associates on the strategy, with future meetings scheduled to address the strategy’s implementation and any employee concerns. Doggett has more than three dozen locations — serving the materials handling, warehouse, crane, forestry, construction and automotive industries in addition to its seven Freightliner stores — so Burk says the regular meetings are necessary to make sure the company’s expansive marketing approach remains consistent.
“Everything ties together for the good of the customer,” he says.
Focus on branding. Another dilemma dealers face regarding marketing standardization is corporate branding. Due to consolidation, many North American dealer groups currently operate facilities under names that do not accurately reflect their connection to a larger organization. This strategy is useful in maintaining the facility’s name recognition in its region but can hinder the larger dealer group when marketing the full scope of its operation.
Will Bruser knows this problem all too well.
“I remember back when we had Kenworth of Birmingham and Kenworth of Mobile, we would have customers come into one location and ask us if we knew the owner of the other location because they needed something done there,” says Bruser, who as president of a nine-location dealer group rebranded his company as Truckworx earlier this decade. Bruser says the name change has been invaluable.
Customers now know how “our people work and understand that how our locations operate. They know we are going to be the same no matter where they are,” he says. “They’ve really enjoyed that consistency.”