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Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting the Best Customer Service from Auto Dealer Website Vendors

Jeff Kershner at Dealer Refresh recently authored a post on his blog about customer service in the auto industry. For some reason many of the auto industry vendors seem to have substandard customer service once the contract has been signed and the customer has made their payment. Jeff makes some great points about what constitutes good service in our world of auto dealer products/services. I'm proud to say Higher Turnover passes the test on all 5.

1. Don't over promise and under deliver: It's important to be straight forward with customers. If you aren't able to do something, don't promise you can do it. Personally I feel it's better to be up front in the beginning. If you over promise certain things it's starting off a business relationship on the wrong foot when the customer sees it's not what they had in mind.

2. Answer your phone: We get calls at all hours of the day, and most of the time I answer the calls personally. If I'm in the middle of 3 different projects I'll still drop what I'm doing to answer the phone, because when I'm the one calling some customer service department, I don't want to leave a message. That increases frustration, and I may be busy when they call back. If we are on the other lines when a customer calls, they will receive a call back immediately when we're available. Our customers tell us on a regular basis how much it means to them that someone always answers the phone when they call. During off-hours I have support calls forwarded to my personal phone. This past weekend I took a call at 11pm Friday night, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday. Car dealers have hectic schedules and we try to accommodate that as much as possible. Other companies should do the same.

3. Have skilled tech support highly trained and familiar with your product: Nobody is more familiar with our product than myself, which is why I prefer to field support calls instead of using a customer service department. It's not easy to hire the right people for support who can learn the ins and outs of a product.

4. Call Me Back: Nothing is more frustrating than sitting around with a product that isn't working properly and not being able to talk with support right then and there. Sometimes it does happen unfortunately. We view our current customers as the most important asset of our company, therefore any support calls which we can't answer immediately are returned promptly, generally within 5 minutes or less. I don't see any legitimate reason why other companies can't do the same, but I've had support calls go for days without a return call.

5. Check in and see how I'm coming along: This is one that we are careful on. We do make it a point to check in on customers regularly, but this has to be done according to the customer needs. Some customers want check-up calls every couple of weeks, while others don't want to be bothered by phone unless you're buying a car. Our practice is to check in more frequently in the beginning as the dealers are learning our products. While we do this we try to get a feel for that particular dealer as far as how often they want us to check in. We have some customers who we speak with several times a week and we have others who we speak with once every 10-12 months. The important thing is that we're available as much as needed.

All of these items above may not be possible for the typical bigger company. No matter how big of a company we are or how much bigger we get, we have made it our mission to maintain our small-company style of customer service. Maybe it stems from my own need to have everything done "right now", but from what our dealers tell us, other companies aren't able to provide the same level of service. For now I guess that's just one more thing to elevate us above the other website providers in the auto industry.

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