Champagne Product, Stale Beer Experience

The alignment of planets and collision of circumstances created a recent need for us to purchase four cars for our family within a six-month period!

Not sure about you, but for me, the typical car dealership customer experience is akin to sitting in the dentist’s chair for a tooth extraction. Ouch!

Two of the automobiles we purchased were at a premium dealership, where we hoped to receive more “white glove” treatment than one might typically face at a lower end car dealership. But while the ambiance there was upscale, the experience was far from it.

So that spurred me to revisit the whole idea of the positive customer experience. A professional services client we work with has made the concept of “creating the unique client experience” a centerpiece of business and organization strategy. The challenge is: how to define and describe this sometimes elusive effect.

Being on the receiving end of a negative buying episode helped me reframe some basics for creating great experiences for customers. And by the way, we all have “customers” — whether it’s a client, a boss who receives our work output or even a teenager to whom we are constantly trying to sell our values!

Tips on Creating Positive Customer Experiences:

  • LISTEN MORE. TALK LESS. Pay close attention to what is being said, both verbally and non-verbally. As authors Maister and Green point out in Trusted Advisor, you have to earn the right to provide advice (or service, product, etc.) by listening and demonstrating you understand your customer’s needs.
  • ACT WITH INTEGRITY. Be honest. Provide the complete story, even it means saying “I don’t know” rather than making up stuff.
  • MAKE IT ABOUT THEM. Demonstrate empathy and “walk in customers’ shoes” to personally see things from their perspective.
  • BE REAL. Make the person-to-person connection, rather than communicating in roles like seller to buyer. More importantly, have your customer’s best interest at heart over your own and act accordingly. When that’s genuine, there’s nothing more compelling.

Until this recent set of experiences, we had purchased our cars for many years from a local dealership with a national if not worldwide reputation for creating top-notch customer experiences (they were showcased as an example of excellence in a long ago Tom Peters video). We always felt respected and listened to there, hence our years of repeat business.

This time we strayed, because we wanted a vehicle brand they didn’t sell. But next time, the decision about what car to buy will be more greatly influenced by the where-to-buy opportunity.

My takeaway: Do not undervalue the power of the positive customer experience!

Elise Cary is a partner at PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @EliseCary.