There is a book doing the rounds that was published ages ago, but that people only now seem to be taking seriously. Anyone who is serious about customer care in motor manufacturers or dealer groups should read this book and challenge their own ideas.
Co-authored by the redoubtable Hal F Rosenbluth, it throws most of the customer service ideals of Car Manufacturer's completely on their head. We have heard for ages that the customer is #1, that if you do what he or she wants you will succeed in the market.
But Mr. Rosenbluth disagrees and he has some credentials. The founder and driver behind Rosenbluth Travel, they experienced double-digit growth year-on-year for 15 years. Employing over 7500 people around the world and with a great reputation for customer service, he knows what he's talking about.
He puts forward a simple idea, an idea that to many outside this industry is blindingly obvious. Concentrate on recruiting the right people, training them properly and giving them the right direction and levels of responsibility, then they will stop worrying about themselves. They will worry about their customers instead.
The re-release of the book, in case you want to read it, is called "The Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First and Watch ‘em Kick Butt". Not the most elegant of titles, but you get the idea.
As soon as I heard about it, I immediately thought of our industry. And I thought of one of the secondary industries that had grown up around it -the CSI industry. This is the industry that says that customer satisfaction is just a league table, a bit like our kids’ education. A valid commercial aim then becomes a focus on those league tables. It becomes a process and not necessarily something that relates to customers.
Whenever I interview a sales manager today we discuss CSI, most of them score well. And most of them do it by working the system. But it frustrates them, as they do better by focussing on scoring better rather than looking after their customers better. They have learnt that to get 97-98% satisfaction you can't just look after people really well, you have to persuade them that customer satisfaction surveys are important, and that your job is on the line.
You have to spend time explaining that without a really good score the business can really suffer. And above all you have to spend a lot of time doing this, rather than looking after your customers in ways that are actually important. Because it is all worth so much money.
To use the education analogy again, although schools should be about teaching and development, for many the focus is largely on league tables. Many therefore concentrate on getting great exam results rather than teaching the kids well.
So, read this book and ask yourself how much of your manufacturers’ efforts concentrate on giving the right people with the right training the responsibility to make decisions that will genuinely benefit customers. And also ask yourself how much these people have to concentrate on scoring well rather than making a difference.
And then ask -have we got the balance right?