12 Processes for Customer Retention  
Copyright© 2008-2009 Automotive Dealers Network. All rights reserved.

By Michael Roppo
Director of Fixed Operations Consulting Training
& Business Development
Michael is a Fixed Operations & Business Development
Consultant with the accounting and automotive
consulting firm of Mironov, Sloan & Parziale. He is a
speaker, author, trainer and facilitator with over 30 years
of experience. He authored  "RESULTS" Service
Management Training Program and others.
    If your goal is an excellent customer service culture throughout the organization, the
    following 12-step process will certainly help you in generating desired results.
    “Do it till you never get it Wrong”!

    1. Gain buy-in from the top.
    One approach to capturing senior management’s attention for building the customer service skills of staff and
    management is to calculate the value of one lifetime customer to the organization.
    When you present this figure, oftentimes six or seven figures, consider the number of customers who don’t
    return due to service issues. One dealer calculated the return on investment for an organization-wide training
    initiative in relationship to a real example of a saved customer.
    Statistically this customer will share his or her experience with ten others, who may bring business to his
    company. In addition to the investment of resources, senior managers need to provide a clear vision of the
    organization and articulate how excellent service fits into the long-term plan. And you must have service to

    2. Take measurements first.
    Use data as a basis for understanding current service levels and where these levels can improve. Such data
    can come from surveys of staff and customers. One type of survey to document the impact of training is to ask
    employees the following questions before and after training:
    1.    The people we work with have an attitude that represents excellent customer service.
    2.    Do we really practice effective listening skills to identify customer needs?
    3.    Do we practice body language that delivers a positive message to customers?
    4.    Do we take advantage of all opportunities to deliver excellent service?
    5.    Do we make every attempt to effectively resolve conflict with customers?
    6.    Do we really go the extra mile to delight customers?

    One dealership organization asked it’s employees, as part of an employee survey, if they would;
    •    Bring your family here to do business?
    •    Would you do business with you?

    Pretty powerful questions don’t you think? This type of question can solicit valuable data about the need
    to improve customer service in the organization. In addition, customer letters, complaints, and casual
    feedback are invaluable tools for learning where the opportunities are for improvement.

    3. Make service-skill building a part of your strategic plan.
    If customer service is really a key part of the organization’s vision and data says it needs to improve, goals
    related to customer service need to be a component of every department’s plan.

    Dealing with been there done that’s in the organization becomes much less of a barrier when everyone is
    accountable for providing excellent service which I also call premium care! As an example, the leaders of one
    organization believed the organization needed to be grounded in a basic set of principles to guide its decision-

    They identified six core values to provide this type of guidance. One of these core values is bring customer
    focused. Since these values are the basis for on-going decision-making, customer service is continually
    embedded in what and how things get done in the dealership overall.

    4. Structure accountability and train at the management level.
    Too often training leader professionals are the only ones expected to change the customer service culture
    without the managers,  and people involvement in the process.

    Managers and their people provide the end result , they play a critical role in the service challenge and are
    responsible for creating a service environment for all staff. Such an environment is not only inspiring, but it is
    also composed of systems and procedures that work for the customer and the employee. In addition, managers
    are responsible for reinforcing skills developed in training.

    5. Find the right training solution.
    A quality customer service training program designed to improve the service culture includes:
    •    Dealership and customer relationship management
    •    Behavior-changing activities
    •    Service standards customized for the organization
    •    Skill building for both internal and external customer service
    •    Linkage of standards to performance management
    •    Relevant case studies specific to the service provided
    •    An interactive and enjoyable experience for participants
    •    Application to all levels of the organization

    And specific modules for managers, which should also include;
    •    leadership behaviors
    •    managing feedback
    •    measuring service standards
    •    writing service standards, and recognition
    •    Capacity for delivery by internal resources

    6. Plan the launch.
    A well thought-out project plan and someone responsible for its execution will ensure a great program. Planning
    may include the structuring of sessions to work well within all dealership business profit centers and their;
    •    Operational needs,
    •    Measurement,
    •    Program evaluation,
    •    Communication,
    •    Training space allocation,
    •    Attendance tracking,
    •    Management participation,
    •    Ordering of supplies,
    •    And follow up.

    7. Make sure, you make it a big deal.
    This is an opportunity to excite the organization. Set up a promotional campaign that touches everyone via
    newsletters, press releases, flyers, banners, meetings, and bulletin boards. Make re-focusing on the customer
    a celebration. One dealership posted signs a few weeks prior to the training saying, Service Excellence? This
    type of communication generated a great deal of curiosity and discussion about the organization-wide customer
    service initiative. When senior management addresses the initiative with excitement and perseverance, the
    organization will follow them into a burning fire to win!

    8. Deliver high performance quality training. All elements noted in step five contribute to quality. Another
    key factor is the selection of facilitators. For larger organizations, you may select internal managers and staff
    members to be trained to deliver the training to the organization. The profile for great customer service training
    facilitators may include:
    •    Dynamic facilitation skills
    •    Animated, enthusiastic behavior style
    •    Leadership skills
    •    A passion for excellent service and the organization’s vision

    You may be surprised at the hidden talent buried in the rank and file of your organization. This unusual
    opportunity for the staff to be facilitators of the training creates professional and personal growth for them. In
    addition, this format may generate a higher level of buy-in and believability among the participants.

    9. Identify barriers to excellent service in the training.
    When staff and management go through a training process on the topic of customer service, a great deal of
    participation and discussion can be expected, everyone can relate to the topic.

    You can expect issues to come up that will not be resolved in the training. Yet these issues make up the most
    valuable and comprehensive internal feedback to the organization you can ever imagine.
    Consider this feedback gold. One way to capture the feedback is for the facilitators to keep a flip chart visible in
    the room and name it parking lot. The parking lot issues are those that are important yet cannot be addressed
    in the training session.

    The most important factor in the success of the parking lot feedback tool is the commitment of senior and
    middle management to address the issues. Even if the issues cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of staff
    members, it is critical that management consider the issues and communicate their decision. When this
    happens, staff members will feel listened to and trust will improve in the organization. A lack of response and
    communication will have an opposite effect and weaken trust in the organization.

    10.Take their Temperature, and Re-measure results.
    To do so, go back to the baseline measurement data collected before the training process. If a pre-survey was
    conducted, administer it again as a post-survey. Re-measuring is best done three to  three months after the
    training. The passing of time will give a true reading of the application of improved internal and external
    customer service skills in the day-to-day workplace.

    11. Start process improvement teams as a result of the training.
    Many of the difficult barriers identified in the training may include cross-departmental processes. A natural
    follow-up to customer service training is assigning process issues to teams who can go to work on them. After
    all, no one knows how to fix broken processes better than those who deal with them every day. And believe me
    the service department see’s many, day in and day out!

    12. Require and Build customer service training into new employee orientation.
    Don’t short change new hires on the customer service skills and attitudes that are expected during their
    employment. Best Practices & Standards of Service should be clear at the onset and new staff members should
    know they will be held accountable to deliver excellent service results through the performance management
A dealership organization-wide customer service initiative can garner measurable benefits to your organization.
A new commitment to providing excellent customer service from the top down of the organization will spearhead
customer-oriented behaviors from the staff.

The properly supported & refreshed staff will be inspired to deliver excellent service. Learning internal customer
service skills will break down any barriers and create positive energy and foster teamwork between departments.
And ultimately, the re-focused energy on the customer will keep your customer coming back. And we call that
the CLF requirement. Customer Loyalty Factor.