An automotive service centre in Manila, Philippines advertises that it opens at 8:00am. The doors actually open, however, around 8:15am. Employees time in before and after 8am but pass through the washroom before heading to their desks. A waiting client who would have arrived at 8:00am would probably be served earliest at 8:30am.
The automotive service centre is part of a dealership that sells Japanese cars, vans, and motorcycles. The dealer represents the final point of a Japanese automotive company’s global supply chain. The Japanese company is heralded as a market leader but that view is far from the mind of the customer waiting for a half hour for one of its dealers to open the doors of its service centre.
The Japanese owners of the automotive company wouldn’t likely be aware of the experiences of their Manila dealer’s customers.
They probably wouldn’t know how customers felt for having to wait for 30 minutes. And they probably wouldn’t know some customers would have to wait even longer because the supervisor who would decide on specific service requests hasn’t arrived yet.
Many executives don’t know first-hand what their customers are experiencing with their enterprise’s front-liners. They would rely on feedback, surveys, and statistics but they would hardly see the actual experiences of customers.
Improving the customer experience can catapult an enterprise’s competitive advantage. But it’s not only because customers will flock for the better service but also because when one improves the structure and processes that improve that experience, it uplifts not only customer satisfaction but the enterprise’s productivity.
The automotive service centre has a competitor down the street. The competitor advertises that its service centre opens at 8:00am but at 7:30am, the service representatives are already checking in customers and inspecting cars. At 8:00am sharp, the service representatives are already interviewing the customers for their specific complaints and requests. Service representatives provide the first group of waiting customers diagnoses and estimates within a few minutes. The service centre would immediately begin work on cars as soon as the customers sign on their approvals. Customers who were at the service centre at 7:30am for routine service checks would be checking out as early as 9:30am.
The automotive competitor serves more cars than the one who keeps customers waiting. It’s not because the competitor has more poor-quality automobiles that need fixing, but it’s because the competitor sells more cars than its neighbour. The competitor does not keep its customers waiting and makes sure all the cars that come in the morning are served as soon as possible.
Customers at either service centre may not be very loyal to the automotive brand they buy but they will remember their experiences. This would have an impact on what automobile they will decide to buy in the future.
But more than that, the competitor has a higher productivity than the neighbour who opens late. The higher productivity assures no backlogs in service jobs that would not only drive up expenses but also make it difficult to keep the customer experience consistent.
The competitor didn’t just add staff to engage waiting customers right away. The competitor also invested in multiple maintenance bays to service more cars simultaneously. The competitor also laid out the facility to have two types of bays: one for quick routine service and the other for longer, more complicated jobs.
The routine service bays were closest to the facility’s doors so service attendants can move cars quickly to customers who can leave immediately. The other bays were located deeper which made them closer to parts storage and special equipment.
The competitor has seen the challenge for consistent customer experience and productivity grow. Sales has gone up and down in recent months. But because the competitor has made sure he has enough staff and bays, customers haven’t been complaining.
The automotive service centre that kept customers waiting for 30 minutes, however, had obviously not paid attention to how promptly its staff reports in the morning. And one could see there was no system of assigned bays or facility plan when it comes to maintaining customers’ cars.
Companies are fickle when it comes to customer experiences. Every so often they harp on it, but when times get tough, they sometimes forget about it.
When one connects a consistently good customer experience with higher productivity, one can see the immediate benefits. The intangible advantages of satisfied customers result in the tangible paybacks of having a productive work-place.