Part One: Investigating expectations

Column by JAY PERRY

When we embark on our careers, I believe most people could be assessed as idealistic. What I mean is that the vision of successfully interacting with customers is prominent in our thinking.

We want to help everyone that comes to us. We are confident that we can help everyone. Two significant factors happen in the ensuing years that buff the shine off that glossy viewpoint; one is that we mature and realize that some customers do not fit with or even understand [our product offering…] It’s obvious if you own a fruit stand and someone comes in to buy fish, that isn’t going to work. When the customer is not educated enough as to what we offer, or we have a false belief we can make things work, disappointment follows.

The other factor is that customer expectations continue to rise, causing us to rethink the way we approach offering our services or products. This one can become easier to fix when we put a little effort into realizing a few truths and enact strategies that support a more successful outcome with customers. That’s what each of us leaders want; for our teams to succeed in handling the difficult customers we all face from time to time.

Assuming we have a customer that could use our service-level, we must check three fundamentals is the transaction is going to end on a good note. Over the next few issues of Collision Repair mag, we will discuss details of these but today we are going to focus on one that involves perception.

The first item of the three is the quality they are demanding. Are their requests commensurate with our team’s abilities? We all like to think we are the best at what we do. Approximately 80 percent of companies surveyed said their quality was lead in their industry. That’s mathematically impossible so we know it is one of the biases we have discussed in past articles in that thinking. Remember: we all tend to overestimate our own abilities while we underestimate the abilities of others.

The real answer to what we can reliably deliver to please a customer must be ascertained through investigation. That means asking lots of questions around what is acceptable to the customer.

I’ll give you an example from my days of running a collision repair business. Inevitably, a customer always wanted a little more done to their vehicle than the initial claim. Often that was touch up a scratch. Well, a touch up and a perfect finish are two different things, so I would ask if they wanted invisible or just a 90 percent repair. You must discover the expectation level of the customer thinks they want—not what you think they want. There is an adage: to under-promise and over-deliver is the key to successful customer experiences. If you don’t know the expectation of quality in rock-solid form, you cannot do either.

So, first step—investigate! That’s part one of three to get your shine back and keep you the one who’s driving!

JAY PERRY is the founder of Ally Business Coaching, a process improvement and leadership development firm, and co-author of the book Success Manifesto with Brian Tracy. Jay is also an education partner with California Coast University in Santa Ana, California. He can be reached at jayperryally@gmail.com.


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