Customer Service is King: The Modern Customer Journey

Customer Service is King: The Modern Customer Journey

During SEMA360, SCRS hosted a series of educational offerings with topics that deal with scanning and diagnostics, repair procedures and marketing.

One of the latter was “The Modern Customer Journey,” presented by Enterprise Account Executive/Professional Services Bob O'Brien at Podium.

Podium is a privately held technology company headquartered in Lehi, UT, that develops cloud-based software to help businesses that want to modernize customer interactions through Podium’s Interactive Management System.

This class outlined the way customers are changing and how body shops can adapt to succeed, but it requires forward thinking and a proactive approach because the technology is changing rapidly.

The pandemic has changed everything, but those shops that are rolling with the punches and making alterations to their marketing, advertising and customer service processes will stay ahead of the game.

O’Brien set the stage to open his presentation.

“Within the last half decade, we have all witnessed one of the world’s most significant shifts in the customer journey,” he said. “Mobility and technology are impacting how customers communicate with your business and how businesses interact with customers.”

One of the largest shifts is directly connected to the fact that customers now expect immediate and convenient information delivered promptly. The average consumer will no longer sit on hold, and pretty soon the personal phone call will approach extinction, he explained.

Phones are literally pocket-sized computers, offering instantaneous searchability for anything we desire. They are valuable tools body shops can use to improve their customer service, as long as they are willing to change.

O’Brien concentrated on three main points: Understanding expectations adapting to customers and navigating the new modern customer journey.

“The only constant is change,” he said. “It’s no longer all about the big fish eating the small fish. Today it’s the fast fish eating the slow fish.”

Those who resist change or are slow to adapt, especially during COVID-19, are going to struggle.

“There are more digital channels than ever and people's expectations have changed as a result, notably in the world of collision repair. In the old days, customers could come to the shop, shake the manager’s hand and talk to an estimator, parts person or technician, for example.”

New platforms can provide a more attractive, convenient and efficient way to communicate, and texting is now leading the way, O’Brien said.

“The surge in 'near me' searches illustrates that we want immediate solutions and we want them right now. Consumers are looking for new ways to leverage these devices that are in their pockets and performing more and more tasks with them at an exponential rate.”

Already popular during normal times, texting has gained even more momentum since the pandemic became a daily part of our lives, O’Brien said.

“Over 90% of people now prefer texting over any other form of communication. Therefore, using phone calls and emails as your main channels of communication is becoming a liability to the efficiency and quality of your business.”

With new technology, consumers expect your shop will use the latest systems in order to provide optimum customer service.

“Studies have revealed that 85% of all consumers expect local businesses to offer more convenient communication and services now more than prior to the outset of COVID-19.”

Things aren’t going to revert back any time soon, and that’s why body shops will be forced to change the ways they’ve been doing business for decades, he said.

“More than half of all consumers say that shops who will not provide pandemic-friendly services will lose their patronage," he said. "People are going elsewhere and seeking out shops that are focused more on customer safety, such as all employees wearing masks and cleaning every vehicle inside and out before and after the repair."

Consumers are more tech savvy than ever and unfazed by new technology.

“As one industry changes, everyone then drags their expectations across other industries," he said. “If a customer loses any confidence in a shop, more and more people are more than willing to pivot and go online to find a new one.”

As a result, people demand a smooth and easy process from start to finish. Finding a shop online, scheduling appointments, communication during the repair---consumers anticipate an “in and out on the go” approach, O’Brien said.

It also benefits the shop as well, because the payment process and getting a positive review from customers is also streamlined. Efficiency and convenience for the shop and its customers has changed the consumer experience forever.

Capturing online reviews is an ongoing process because people covet more recent reviews less than three months old.

“Some companies proactively pursue reviews for a period of time and then stop, which is a mistake," he said. "If you have a bunch of reviews from 2018 and then very little after that, it’s not a good sign.”

People are not afraid to change their habits if they see a logical and convenient way of doing things, he said.

“Consumers will pivot and go online without hesitation. You can have long-term customers who will alter their behavior if you can engage with them in a timely and easy manner.”

Customer service has always been important, but even more essential in a modern world.

“Customer service is overtaking price and product,” O’Brien said. “It’s the differentiating quality. Price and quality are still a part of the decision, but customer service is now king.”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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