Enriching Experience: Chelsea Stebner on the customer experience

By Chelsea Stebner

“Customer experience” is a buzz word these days. 

Officially, it is defined as “the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship”

One of my favourite quotes is from Zig Ziglar: “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” It has helped us to define and build our customer experience plan.

How does your business define customer experience? Do you have a plan in place to practice your customer experience? Do you have a goal in creating the best customer experience?  Often what happens in business is that customer service starts when things go wrong. And let’s face it, when there are humans involved, things are bound to go sideways occasionally. The reality of it is for all our business is that the reason customers walk through our doors is that something did go wrong. Collision repair businesses are the reactionary requirement of something going wrong!

It’s not usually about the car.

Do you stop and ask your customers if they are okay? Being in an accident is traumatic⁠—trust me. Every ten years or so, I seem to get my very own reminder of that. For our teams though, this is all regular day to day business, however, for our customers–it’s an on average every seven-year experience. So, while your team is busy thinking business as usual in their heads, our role is to help them slow it down and manage every customer situation with empathy.

Expectations

Are you teaching your team to read every customer? Let’s be real⁠—each customer has different needs and expectations and when we can take the time to learn what they need; it makes the entire experience easier. It is refreshing when we get a low maintenance customer. You know the one⁠—he drops the car and says, “just let me know when it is done.” 

I know this because my team teases me all the time about being high maintenance. And I tease them right back that I have high expectations, that it’s not high maintenance. And besides, the fact of it is, that I’m just training them to step it up to the highest level to best serve our customer’s needs!  

Or do you have that customer that needs somewhere soft to land?  Guidance and reassurance through that whole process. Is that customer a mom with three little kids who just hit a curb and took out her wheel? This is when you bring out the box of Kleenex and the colouring books for the kiddos.  

Dialling it back and giving someone your full attention face to face can make a world of difference in someone’s experience.  That means, at our shop, it’s rare that a real human doesn’t answer our phone. And that if a customer emails me after business hours, they’ll hear back usually before the start of the following business day. The human connection never goes out of style.

Communication

Segueing right into communication, we’ve learned⁠—often the hard way⁠—that clear communication is highly necessary for a smooth repair and customer process. The best way, kudos to technology, is electronically. It is simple, it doesn’t interrupt a customer’s day and it is easy to be very clear about what’s going on with the repair process or any roadblocks we need to address. However, if our customer would rather a text message, a phone call or to stop on in, we’ll always adapt to their needs. The key lesson here is to always tell your customer what they need to hear, not what they want to hear, in the kindest way possible.

The Role

When you’re building a customer service role or hiring for that position, what are your key requirements to look for? I look for and try to model patience, attitude and the ability to extend grace in many situations. So, ask yourself, do you have people on your team that will do whatever it takes to make a customer experience great? If so, lucky you and then what are you doing to support them, thank them and reward them?  

When it goes right

Let’s face it, we all continue in business because things do go right most of the time and we are earning enough profit and having fun along the way.  Are you working on building relationships or are you more focused on transactions? If you focus on your relationships with your customers, you have an opportunity sitting in front of you to build ambassadors of your brand.  Thank them. Be genuine in your thanks. Surprise them with something extra–your customer expects great repairs–what are you doing to wow them? Ask them for a review, ask them to share their experience on social media. But most importantly? Blow them away with your smile, with your connection, with your service and they will tell others about your business.

If you do what you do with genuine passion and commitment, your customers will see that.  And they will champion your business and your team!

Chelsea Stebner is a co-owner and operator of Parr Autobody, a collision repair facility in Saskatoon, Sask.

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