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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Creating An Effective Service Experience

Date: 11 June 2009
Time: 8.30am
Place: German Business Centre
Host: Macwurth Team International
Attended this Breakfast Meeting hosted by Macwurth Team International (MTI), a management consultant company.
Note: I am not an MTI employee nor am I or will I benefit monetarily from this post.
What should we focus on if we want to provide an effective service experience?
Some contributions from the participants:
  • Quality
  • Understanding (needs and expectations)
  • Availability
  • Speed of Response
  • Consistency
  • Integration
  • Empowerment
  • Creating good experience.
"Needs" and "expectations" are not necessarily the same. We know what the client needs, but their expectations are sometimes very different from what they need.
"But, the customer is willing to pay for it what!" someone retorted arrogantly.
"Let's first stick to the subject that 'needs' and 'expectations' can be different. We'll come to the customer willingness to pay later," I replied.
Are customers' expectations always reasonable? If not, whose fault is it?
For instance, there could be a customer that doesn't maintain the machine until it conged out. Then it became very expensive to repair it.
At that point, the customer is willing (or compelled) to pay whatever it takes to get the machine going again for production. Now, the customer is willing to pay for their 'unreasonable expectations'. Hang-on! If the customer is willing to pay, then are the 'unreasonable expectations' now 'reasonable expectations'?
Is it the consultant's fault not being able to educate the customer?
Or is it the customers' fault for being so ignorant? So laid-back...etc.
But then, why should the customer deal with you? You must be able to provide value to the customer. Should one of the values be about educating the customer?
We then broke up into three groups to discuss about how to provide "Effective Customer Service Experience". The three different service sectors are:
  • A Car Dealership
  • Financial Services
  • Manufacturing
I was in the Car Dealership group. We concur that the dealership should provide:
  • Vehicle Recovery Service
  • Arrangements for insurance and loans
  • Servicing
  • Car grooming
  • Club memberships
Should all the services be provided FREE (oops! I mean included in the price of the car), or should only the basic services be FREE and offer the premium services at a fee?
Also Car Club memberships differ. A Suzuki Swift car club is very different in nature and perceived prestige of a BMW club. Hmm... much of these are 'perceived' (not real), so I wonder why still so many people continue to fall for it! :)
It is said that the mid-class brands of cars have very smug showroom salesmen. They don't care much, because it is a common and popular category where customers that come in have already decided to buy the car as a 'workhorse' and not a 'race horse'. 'Racehorses' like BMWs, would need attentive salesmen, as the customers tend to be more fussy and obsessive about quality.
So, we feel that it depends on the class of cars that one is selling. Profit margins are different, prestige is different and it will attract different sets of customers. So selling a BMW would be very different from selling a Proton Saga.
One of our participant, had a pleasant experience selling her old Mitsubishi. When she arrived at the garage to sell the car, there was a long queue of cars waiting to sell-in (the garage offerred a good buying price). She thought, "Oh gosh!", but then the security guard came and greeted, "Good morning M'am. How are you today?", then dished out the morning newspapers for her to read while waiting. What followed was a very pleasant service experience and none of them (the sellers) felt impatient or frustrated, even though they had to wait for a long time.
So she said that car dealers should advertise about their customer and sales services, and sales-persons too, not just the cars. These days as technology is so advanced, all cars are reliable, perform reasonably well and can have any add-on luxury, like GPS systems...etc. So the competitive edge should be the service experience.
Before we ended, the facilitator brought out an interesting case of the Cycle and Carriage dealership, which for a long time was the sole Mercedes Benz distributor. Everyone that walked into their showroom was treated like a Prince. However, over time, they also distributed the low end Proton Saga. Now, did they continue to treat all customers like a Prince? Can they afford to treat the high ends and the low ends the same? This is food for thought.
Have you learned something from this post?
Do you think you should treat the humble Proton Saga customer the same way as you treat the prestigious Merc customer?
Is it cost-effective to provide the same high quality and luxurious treatment to both categories of customers?
What do you think you would do if you are the car salesman? Assume you will earn more from the sales of a Merc.
What will Love do?
What will you do if you put Love first?
What will you do if money (the commissions) does not matter to you?
Many thanks to Macwurth Team International. The breakfast was lovely. During the tea time, some participants came over to me and said that I am a 'maverick', as I threw in tricky out-of-the-box questions. I didn't think so. I think I am an average human being, with the privilege to think freely. I think once one is too much in a big company, one is forced into standard company processes, and that's when the intelligent average human being becomes a human-doing. He stops thinking outside the processes and the company.
Incidentally, today's Daily Contemplation is:
It is difficult to see the picture when you are inside of the frame.
-- Author Unknown

Suggested reading: "Selling Fear", click here
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