One of the many pleasures of my job is having the opportunity to meet our clients and prospective clients face-to-face. In this era of webinars and interaction happening through electronic means, I learn a lot more about the issues facing clients when working to improve customer service by seeing them in person. I also learn what they like about what we are doing and areas they want to see us improve. My in-the-shop discussions with people help me to better understand the daily challenges they face with customers, employees, vendors and a variety of other stakeholders.
Periodically, my wife and I head out in the company RV to visit clients in various parts of the country. This past Wednesday, we began a trip that will last about three weeks and I will visit clients in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Let me share with you some of the things I have learned so far.
· Carter Machinery, the Caterpillar dealer for Virginia and portions of West Virginia, is a top-performer among the dealers with which we work. I sense that one of the reasons they are a top performer is a desire to continuously improve. I heard it from the manager I met with at the home office, as well as the managers I met with at the two locations I visited. Interestingly, I did not see a lot of banners, posters, or screen displays proclaiming a desire to be a top performer. I heard it from them. It is part of the company DNA!
· It was interesting to see one way in which the continuous improvement effort is manifested. One of the managers downloads the results of surveys each month for his branch. He has an “all-hands” meeting monthly to review each survey. They discuss what went well with each customer experience as well as those experiences that need improvement.
· One of the more challenging issues facing Carter, and other clients, is how to improve communication with the customer. It has such a strong positive impact on the customer experience if handled well. In the rush to get things done people forget things like letting the customer know about cost changes, or when the planned repair will be completed. Also, if the repair is going to cost more than originally estimated, it is not going to be completed when promised, or a part is not in stock, there is the natural human reluctance to avoid delivering “bad news.”
I plan to blog some more about what I observe while on the road. I can certainly say that if you think North America looks great from 35,000 feet in the air, try driving across it on the ground – it’s beautiful out here!!
All the best.