Customer Service: What Strengthens Your Relationships?

No matter what business you are in, customer service is more important now than ever. As society becomes increasingly impersonal, the value of personal relationships, the need for personal attention and adapting to customers’ needs matter. Add to this the ever-changing social media variable, and you will be quickly made aware of one of the dangers of poor customer service. Remember, positive or negative word travels fast!

For the next few minutes I would like to focus on three areas that can only strengthen your customer relationships. They are first impressions, body language and listening.

First Impressions

We’ve all heard the expression, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” What this means is that in our first encounter with someone new, we’re being sized up, often unconsciously. Rightly or wrongly, opinions are being formed about us based on our appearance, body language, demeanor, attire and other observations.

First impressions are important. Whole books have been written about this single aspect of doing business. According to some, it is the fastest way to build customer loyalty. Whether it’s that first impression as they come in through the door, or even their initial impression in the way you answer the phone, it will start a sequence of experiences that can lead to a lifetime customer or a “no return.”

The success of Apple has, in part, been due to their conscious efforts to ensure that no matter what touchpoint we make with the company it’s a good experience. Whether in an ad, in person or by that first experience with one of their products, their desire is for you to feel impressed afterwards.

Stop and think; is your shop neat and clean? Does your staff appear friendly, professional, courteous and responsive? Do they create an impression of competence?

Body Language

Be aware and pay attention — many people are unaware of the non-verbal signals they are sending via body language, whether through posture, facial expressions, folded arms, etc. Sometimes our minds are focused on something else, and though we are looking at our customer, our body language may show that we’re not there. Therefore, pay attention. If there is a disconnect between our words and body language, it can make people uncomfortable or not even understand what we are trying to say.

Not only are there books on first impressions, but there are also plenty of books on body language. Just like this article, it is simply to help us become more self-aware regarding our relations and interactions with others. Some people are intimidated when we talk too loud, move too fast or have a scowl on our faces. Paying attention to how you come across is a useful skill to develop. Our non-verbal cues show our customers whether or not we care — how we move, react, treat their vehicle, look and listen.

Listening

It’s easy to say we value our customers, but do we take time to listen to them? Nothing shouts, “I care” more than showing it. Pay attention, because people like to feel affirmed, connected and important — not just a number or a car count. Remember, just because you can repeat what the other person said does not mean you were really listening to them.

As Steven R. Covey said, “Listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply.”

Don’t fake it. We’re often preoccupied with what we are going to say next, but relax. People can tell when you’re not engaged. Build a relationship with your customer, and over time, they will appreciate the value you provide. In a world where it seems like people do not care about their jobs or their customers, your earnest effort to offer quality service matters. People want to do business with people they trust. Making people important isn’t always easy when we’re in a hurry or distracted by various responsibilities, so it’s essential to remind yourself and your team that positive or negative word will travel fast.

 

There is no competitive edge, as we all have access to these powerful tools of customer service, being prepared for that first impression, body language and truly listening. So, the question is, what strengthens your relationships?

Amber Kossak

Amber Kossak is president and CEO of Solid Start, manufacturer of True Brand Products. She has been in the automotive industry for almost 20 years and is serving on the AOCA board of directors. She can be contacted at: kossak@solidstart.biz