Understanding customer relationship management (CRM)

Do you want to get a better understanding of your customers, and how you could treat them better? Then look into the factors making up CRM

Published:  04 December, 2019

Have you ever sat back and thought about the basis of our relationship with the vehicle owner? Do you truly understand the real nature of what the customer is actively seeking to purchase and what he or she wants out of this dynamic and sometimes complicated relationship?    
Understanding customer relationship management (CRM) is a combination of people, processes and of course technology. The purpose is to seek to understand the dynamic and sometimes complicated relationship between, in our case, a garage business and its customers. You need to have an integrated approach to managing relationships by focusing on customer retention and relationship development. CRM has evolved from advances in information technology and organisational changes in customer‐centric processes. Garage businesses that successfully implement CRM will reap the rewards in customer loyalty and long-term profitability.
However, successful implementation seems to be very rare to many in the automotive repair sector. I suspect this is because most do not understand that CRM requires company‐wide, cross‐functional, customer‐focused business process. Yes, that old chestnut. Seriously though, before you can implement it, you must understand what it really means, and where to put your attention for the best outcome.
So, what should we focus on in order to at try and achieve a successful CRM implementation in our automotive repair sector? Here are just a few areas that I believe need to be observed.

We cannot do the work unless we have some place to do it. Because of this, premises now play an increasingly important part in everything we do. The facility has to meet or exceed customer expectations. In today’s competitive automotive repair industry, you need to provide a clean and uncluttered environment. This means offering up an inviting, efficient professional-looking garage is of paramount importance. Nothing less will do, as the bar for the quality of service delivery is being raised throughout our sector. Customers may not give us a first chance, let alone a second, because of the way our garage may look. This is especially true if the workshop leaves a poor impression, and implies that the business is unprofessional, disorganised and chaotic.   

How does competence affect service? We would all like to think that everyone on our profession is competent, but are they? We all know the answer to that question is sadly no. Despite this unfortunate fact, consumers still have faith in us. When he or she comes in, the customer will still believe that the person or garage is competent, or that they will supply competent technicians to work on their vehicle. This faith exists regardless of whom they have chosen for the service or repair of their vehicle.
This is very fortunate for us. Despite the bad press our sector receives on a regular basis thanks to a few bad eggs at the fringes, customers generally assume those working in our industry are competent, until it is proven otherwise. The customer does not go out of his or her way to find a competent provider because they believe that they are entitled to find this – it’s a given; a natural assumption apparently.

Skill is almost always taken for granted in our industry as well, which is odd because it’s so rare. More to the point, how the skill is acquired and where the training or development occurred is really of no importance to most vehicle owners. It is however, critically important to you and me-or at least it should be. Our success or failure is the direct result of our skill and ability of our technicians and reception advisors. Yet we seem unable or unwilling as an industry to charge more for a technician who is schooled and certified in the necessary disciplines. How or why should our customers value that skill is we do not?

Ethics and honesty
These two are givens as well. Every motorist has made a leap of faith that assumes the person to whom he or she has brought their vehicle for repair is ethical and honest, despite the fact that they think the rest of us may be crooks, thieves and idiots! Ask yourself this question: Would any reasonable, rational adult take their vehicle to a someone they know to be a thief? The answer is of course not! What is it worth to the customer to know they are in the hands of an honest and ethical professional when they are buying a service about which they have very little knowledge to judge the full value-especially when media is full of stories about automotive rip-offs?

Understanding the customer
Understanding the customer is all about empathy, your ability to both know and understand the customer’s situation, feelings and motives. It’s all about recognising the customer’s wants, needs and expectations, whether obvious or hidden, as well or better than they do. Once recognised, it’s all about addressing those wants, needs and expectations by satisfying them – or at least making the effort
to try.

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