Managing Customer Satisfaction in Real-Time
"People are sick and tired of taking surveys because nothing seems to improve. This is not only a problem but an opportunity as well. I suggest in this blog post that we utilize the data in our DMS to intercede on behalf of the customer, and make sure their experience is worthy of a 5 star review even if they never respond to a survey."
Has any of these situations happened in your dealerships?
- A breast-feeding mother was told her car would be done by Noon and it is now 2 PM. Her infant child is screaming and she had to call her neighbors to pick up her other children from school. She may or may not complain to your staff but she definitely slams you on the survey.
- The guy in the waiting room seems OK but you missed his promise time a little and he goes home and slams you on Yelp.
We are concerned about CSI.
The reason we developed customer satisfaction surveys is because we didn't have the technology to know if a customer had a good experience in the dealership. We should, with the amount of technical solutions available, now be fairly certain that everyone is well taken care of according to our standards and that of the manufacturer.
How would this work? We intercede on behalf of the customer during the transaction. Using some of the new, surprisingly cost effective, technology platforms from Microsoft we can develop an application that will monitor a customer's transaction and let us know if something is amiss.
The best platform to utilize to create and use secure, enterprise level applications with your data, is Microsoft's Power Apps.
"Power Apps is a service for building and using custom business apps that connect to your data and work across the web and mobile - without the time and expense of custom software development."
This technology is truly remarkable! Applications built this way can do just about anything and features can be hard to imagine. Here are a few scenarios we can use to enumerate the features we might want:
- How long have they been here? Think of the two examples above! We can automate the notification of the appropriate staff so this does not occur. We can have our Power App constantly check the DMS for all ROs opened today and whether or not the customer is a waiter. We can have it check if promise times are reasonable and at risk of being missed, and have the application notify the Advisor and his supervisor that corrective action is needed. If promise times are going to be missed, we can have the Power App fire off a text to the Service Manager to intercede on the customer's behalf. The Service Manager (or Advisor) will check with the dispatcher, ascertain the problem, solve the problem, and communicate with the customer right then. We can even have the Salesperson who sold the car notified at some point so they can show them the new models.
- Customers love it when they feel we are on top of their situation. Think of the waiter at your favorite restaurant. He is always checking on you and your party to make sure everything is good. We can't do that because we want our Advisor to be on the drive writing service. Instead, we have our Power App texting the Advisor and Service Manager when the experience does not meet acceptable parameters. These parameters can be tightened if the Advisor knows the customer is a VIP or special needs. This is proactive customer satisfaction. Our Power App will communicate with the customer every step of the way as well. For example:
- "The mechanic has begun the following service: [the app inserts op code description here]"
- "Your car is done and is awaiting a wash. It should be no more than 15 minutes until it's ready for you."
- "Your car is done, please see the cashier. Your Advisor will meet you there." The Advisor get's a similar text to make sure they meet the customer.
Many people don't wait for their service work, but a lot more will if they know their car will be properly moved through the system. We can make each transaction an event. Celebrating each success our service team has by ringing a bell and rewarding employees and customers alike.
- Get a "heads up" before it's too late. Our customer intercession Power App will know when a customer is inconvenienced. It is crucial to our customer's satisfaction. Our Power App will monitor all phone calls and customer activity timestamps and we will know if they have called the store more than two or three times in a day. If they have, the Service Manager will intercede on their behalf and talk with the Advisor. The issue could be a problem employee (the Advisor) or that the customer simply fell through the cracks. Our Power App will scan all timestamps for each customer to see if there is an unfinished transaction and how long it has been.
In the case of vehicle sales transactions, our Power App can also know by the dates how many times a customer has come to the dealership. A customer might have fallen through the cracks if a salesperson has quit. If a customer is buying a car and the deal event data shows that it has not completed timely, the GM or Sales Manager will get a text urging corrective action with options for contacting the customer.
- Solve problems all day long. Customers will put up with alot if we include them in the process. Sometimes we need to say "I'm sorry" and our Power App can help with that too. If a customer has been wronged, our Power App can dispatch a car to pick them up or take them to the web to make an appointment to meet with them and address their concerns. The key here (in the case of service work) is that we don't want customers to only hear from us at the end of the day.
Some of us even miss the chance to make the end-of-day contact because the customer calls us first, asking (always irritated) "So, were you ever going to call me to tell me my car is ready?" If the customer has experienced an issue, our Power App can be set up to give them something nice to help correct the situation; whether it be a driver sent to get them, sending them to lunch on us while we finish up their car, or sending them flowers or a gift. All these types of services have APIs (application programming interfaces) that will accept requests from our Power App.
Using your data for a competitive advantage.
The above is an example of some of the things we can do with Microsoft's platform. It is a no-code environment, meaning that the App creator does not need to know how to code. It is extremely robust and can handle it all! The critical skills required are the knowledge of your DMS' data model and the processes in your dealership which tells us where to get the information to drive the Power App.
Microsoft's Power Apps platform does all the heavy lifting including all the code that goes into getting your app to work on phones, tablets and on the web in a secure manner. If we were to start from scratch on the App, it would require a developer to generate code to build the security, web application and mobile application infrastructure. With Power Apps, we only need to create the data entities and the events in our App to trigger notifications to our customers, vendors and employees.
Microsoft has worked everything out for us, even if we want to give our App artificial intelligence or a Bot interface on Facebook or our website. Microsoft has recently renamed their self-service platform products we can use by adding the word "Power" to them and calling the entire suite the Microsoft Power Platform. This platform includes Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Power BI and Power Apps. They have even given Power Automate, which is the task automation part, the ability to control robotic processes (RPA) if we should need it. A possible use for this would be sheparding cars through recon and/or the photo booth.
Here is how we make this a competitive advantage:
- Start your Data Warehouse. This sounds ominous but starting a data warehouse is fairly easy and can be done economically. It basically means pulling your data from your various systems and storing it in one or more databases. If you heeded my advice in an earlier post about gaining access to all your system's APIs, then it is a simple matter of organizing and automating extraction processes and saving the data in your data warehouse.
- Start your DevOps. DevOps is short for [Software] Development Operations. In the car dealership, it is difficult to find developers with intricate knowledge of the business, the finance and accounting systems and in-depth knowledge of the DMS data models. However, if you leverage our knowledge here at AST, we can be that part-time employee that makes it all work for you.
- Brainstorm the events to track. In order to identify customers in distress we need to analyze timespans and other event data in our DMS and then work out a series of acceptable parameters and the related events for various customer transactions. This exercise is done by extracting data and analyzing it using various methods including machine learning algorithms.
- Determine who will intercede in each event. Once we see a customer-in-distress event fire, we need to make sure the proper level of employee responds. In addition, we need to record the outcome so we can review the responsible employee's performance at regular intervals. We will include employees such as the front line employee (the Advisor), the fixer (whoever we decide needs to intercede), the fixer's supervisor, and the next level supervisor. These designations are typically fluid and are fine-tuned over time. The beauty of DevOps and Microsoft's Power Platform is that solutions developed are fully and easily customized to the way we operate our dealership. This is a significant advantage over vendor solutions.
- Create and Secure the App. Power Apps are is a secure platform. Our DMS handles all of the dealership transactions very well. Our Power App will use our transactional and remind everyone, including the customer, that all is going well. No more problems!
The time for leaving your customer satisfaction improvement to surveys is over. Sure, surveys help but a bad survey is difficult to overcome and it is nice to be able to head those off. I submit that as dealership professionals, we can improve our competitve advantage with a DevOps function allowing us to be more aware of the customer's experience. Think of it as managing your customer's satisfaction in real-time as opposed to hoping all is well and waiting for a survey.
I can't wait to talk more about this with you so call me (702 498 8777) to discuss improving your competitive advantage through customer intercession.