Customer service … really?

Last week my car went into the garage. Garages notoriously attract negative comments and feedback, so it’s important for them to try and address these issues. But have they got it right? This story illustrates a well-intentioned series of actions that have left a customer feeling unimpressed.

The gearstick surrounding had all come loose, revealing the workings inside so some essential repairwork was required.

After an initial phone call, I took it in for an analysis – the service department came out, looked at it and said it would need a new one, and gave me a price. They then booked me in a week later. I received a phone call the day before to remind me about the appointment, and asking me to get in touch if it wasn’t convenient. Very good.

I dropped it off, assuming it would all be fixed when I came to pick it up several hours later, but no. It had been into the workshop for the mechanics to have a look at. They confirmed I would need a new one, and added the fact that my tyres could do with replacing soon, so they could do that at the same time. Not so good. But they did wash and hoover the car. Brilliant!

I was then booked in for the following week. In the meantime, I got a second opinion on my tyres from a tyre specialist, who suggested they had a couple of thousand miles left in them yet. Given I only do about 5,000 miles a year, that was good news, so I cancelled the replacement tyres, but kept the appointment for the gear stick cover.

The day before, I received the same scripted phone call reminding me of my appointment and asking me to let them know if it wasn’t convenient.

I eventually picked up the car, all fixed and good to go at the price first quoted. Excellent (eventually).

Today, I missed a phone call from the garage, but they left a message asking me to call back at my convenience so they could ask me a few questions which ‘will only take a couple of minutes’. They also said that they were about to put a short survey in the post so could I spare a few minutes to do that.

So what’s my problem?

The thing is, I don’t really care about their survey. That’s useful information for them, but it eats into my time. Also, how useful is it going to be to them? I had mixed (emotions) responses throughout the process depending on what the news was. I was all of the following:

  1. Pleased they could fix it
  2. Alarmed at the cost
  3. Satisfied they could provide a courtesy car (but disappointed that delayed my appointment by a week)
  4. Frustrated that it wasn’t fixed the first time
  5. Happy with the attitude of the people I dealt with
  6. Glad they gave it a wash and a hoover the first time I took it in
  7. Slightly disappointed it didn’t get another wash and hoover the second time
  8. Bemused by the second reminder call – this would be the third visit to the garage in as many weeks. Part of my routine by now!
  9. Annoyed that I nearly spent a lot of money on unnecessary new tyres
  10. Grateful that the first price quoted was correct

What are they going to deduce from all that – and more importantly, what can they do about it?

The questionnaire has now arrived in the post and asks questions like … ‘how happy were you with the service advisors ability to assist you?’ on a scale of 1 to 10, followed by a bunch of yes/no answers. It’s simply a checklist of activities.

In actual fact, I used to enjoy going to that particular garage, because I always felt I was dealing with humans who spoke in normal ‘person to person’ language. Now they’ve introduced these ‘customer service’ measures like a confirmation call, a follow up call, a survey, I feel more like a participant in some kind of consumer research. What’s more, it’s for their benefit, not mine.

If it was my garage, I would ask a group of recent customers to come in for a round-table discussion, with the offer of a wash and hoover, or a free service to reward them. This would give them much more useful and valuable feedback, with the opportunity to explore and discuss any concerns.

So before you introduce customer surveys, think about what useful information you’ll get, and how your customer is going to feel about it.

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