I am a humble student of customer experience and it’s been a week of fascinating debacles. I believe there’s a direct connection between customer experience and a company’s revenue, having lived it during my years managing car dealerships in Southern California. We served some of the most demanding customers on the planet and now that people are connected through social media, customer experience might just be the new marketing.
Disruption is here and many companies aren’t ready for it. It used to be that sellers had the upper hand in transactions but those days are gone. In fact, it’s possible that today’s informed customer knows more than one or more of your salespeople. Customers are no longer powerless and salespeople who embrace this shift and roll with the change will survive and thrive during this disruption.
Any industry that’s incited loathing and disgust is ripe for disruption. I say this to those in the auto industry or any other business who believe that the status quo is sufficient. Superior leadership is mega-important (as if it wasn’t already) in this transition from past practices. If you don’t have a passionate, committed leadership team who’s focused first on customer experience, you may not get past the starting gate.
Current State of Customer Experience
Every week I hear more stories about people in auto retail who just don’t seem to get it. Even though these instances happened just last week, they show how far the car business has to go. And if you’re in a different industry, listen up. You can learn from these examples because stories like these aren’t exclusive to the car business:
- BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A sales manager, finance manager and three salespeople who either work for, or previously worked for, Serra Nissan are facing federal charges in connection with a scheme at the dealership to fraudulently boost loan approvals and car sales. The 11-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiring with others at the dealership to defraud financial institutions, Nissan North America and Serra Nissan customers by fraudulently increasing vehicle sales in order to boost personal profits.
This is a perfect storm and right now we are in the middle of it: easy credit, especially sub-prime, with some calling it a Bubble, lack of leadership and outright criminal behavior. I suspect we’ll see more of this. They never learn.
- KIRKLAND, Wash. — A lawsuit filed this week alleges a local car dealership sales manager hurled racially insensitive remarks at an employee from India and his immigrant customers. Attorneys also filed a second, class-action lawsuit alleging the dealership withheld commission from the employee and other workers.A former salesman at Toyota of Kirkland says he was fired by text message after complaining about the remarks to superiors at his office. The first suit alleges the general sales manager at the dealership told the salesperson, who was born in India, that he “belongs working at a 7/11 not in a car dealership.” The suit also contends that the same sales manager used negative terms in referring to immigrant customers and would say things such as, “who let them into our country?”
Are you starting to see where our industry is ripe for disruption? If you look around, it’s already started with the maneuvers of Tesla and business models like Uber and Lyft. The Collaborative Economy has already begun.
Customer Experience is the New Marketing
“Now with social media and the connected environment we live in, a good experience can lead to thousands of connections and a negative experience can lead to potentially more than that.”
Cannon fundamentally disagrees with the traditional CSI model, which takes the transaction and breaks it up into its component parts. “Operational excellence is the ticket for entry,” he said. “We need to eliminate the word satisfied from our vocabulary. Satisfied for me is vanilla. We need to delight. We need to amaze. We need to provide extraordinary.”
An extraordinary customer experience creates word of mouth. There’s no better medium to foster word of mouth than social media. However, you need to make sure these components are in place first:
- There’s no way to deliver an outstanding customer experience with miserable employees. Yep.
- Examine your operation and develop a solid content creation process within it. Employees and customers are both valuable resources.
- Study how the online customer shops, where they spend their time and how you can meet them where they are and serve them.
- Provide an online customer experience that mirrors your real life customer experience. Establish value with customers by answering questions, solving problems and differentiating yourself from your competitors.
Customer experience is the new marketing. It’s people-driven, it’s trust-driven and it takes superior leadership. How equipped are you to make loyalty and customer experience your priority?
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