The world is full of commodities. Everything from cell phones to toothpaste. It is the glue that binds all of us together. We can’t live without them. Nearly everything we use today is manufactured and produced this way. In fact, we would collapse as a species if it was not.
In the past 150 years we have morphed from a “handcrafted” industrial base to “mass production” and applied the concept to everything including the “Service Industry.”
When you apply these concepts to the “Service Industry” you get the same” drive thru” experience at any fast food restaurant in the country. It does not matter if you are in California or New York. And if you were to ask anyone if they were expecting that same experience when going to the drive thru whether they were in CA ort NY, they would say “Yes!”
Let me ask you this.
What are the most valuable objects from the past 150 years? (Generally speaking) Handcrafted originals or mass produced objects? And the obvious answer is an original. No question.
Of course, the first of anything mass-produced has a tendency to be more collectible than say number 10,000, but in most cases, it does not carry the same value as a handcrafted original.
This same concept applies to service experiences and our perception of the difference between what we perceive to be “Great” service and “average” service or a commodity as it were.
In fact, were I to ask all of you, which would you prefer…one night’s stay at the local “motel no-tell” or one night’s stay at the Beverly Hilton, which would you choose? How about dinner at “Chuck’s Beef Bistro and Laundromat” or Gramercy Tavern in New York? Of those two choices, which sounds better?
The problem with readily available commodities (including Service) is we might need them, we cannot live without them, but we would rather have the handcrafted original instead.
Basically we all want a handcrafted experience in a commodity driven world.
And if I were to walk into any Service Department and ask the Service Manager in that store “On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you stack up providing service vs the “drive thru” down the street?” what do you think his/her response would be? Most likely they would be indignant and offended. They would not like their Service Department and their personnel being compared to a “fast food experience.”
The problem is, a lot of them are closer to fast food than handcrafted original. Here are some clues that you might be falling into that “commodity” trap.
- Personnel in your store use processes as an excuse to marginalize the Customer’s experience rather than as a tool to build a relationship.
- Personnel in your store use electronics (computer) as a communication barrier. They talk to the screen instead of the Customer.
- Personnel in your store do not attempt to learn the Customers name and use it when addressing them.
- Greetings are perfunctory and lifeless. You could get the same greeting by calling into the DMV.
- Customers are “handled” rather than “taken care of.” There is a difference. None of us like to be handled but we all like to be taken care of. You can go to the maternity ward of any hospital to see the difference.
If you find your Service Department and your Personnel in this “commodity driven” mentality, you need to inject some “handcrafting original” Training and Coaching.
Here are 5 things you can do to get original.
- Practice Greeting your Customers like they are long-lost relatives whom you haven’t seen in years. Smile, extend your hand for a handshake, or if you know them well enough, give them a hug. Make small talk. Notice something about them or about their vehicle. Remind them why your Service Department and you are an excellent choice.
- Learn your Customers name and use it! If they prefer to be called Mr. Jones or Ms. Smith or Bobby Bubbagump, whatever it is, say their name. If you don’t know how they like to be addressed, ask them!
- Use the write-up process and walk around as it was intended. As a tool to build a relationship strong enough that your Customer feels they want to conduct business with you and have their service work completed in your Service Department. If you or your team has a poor closing ratio then maybe you might want to take a look at what is happening in the write-up and see if the problem starts there.
- Learn to make eye contact. It’s not that hard. Look at your Customer from time to time, smile, nod, use non-verbal communication to indicate you are listening and paying attention to them. Stop talking to the computer screen.
- Take care of your Customers and stop handling them. It’s the little things that separate the “drive thru” from the “original.” Show, don’t point. Talk, don’t grunt. Smile, don’t frown. Ask, don’t assume. Explain, don’t tell. Offer, don’t demand. Options, not ultimatums. Time, not task. Taken care of, not handled. Thanks, not haste.
Want to start kicking the competition’s butt? Stop competing on a commodity basis and start building an original Customer experience. There is no competition when you are an original.