Chester Greenwood lived in sub-zero temperatures much of the winter in western Maine. He was especially frustrated with his ears becoming frostbitten during the long, cold winters. To ease his pain, he took a wire and cut it and bent it to fit over his head. Then he attached two fur cups to the ends to cover his ears. Before long he had a steady string of orders for his newly conceived “earmuffs” which soon became a must-have in every cold climate.
And for the autobody repair world, Gerald E. Keinath didn’t create the process that fixes holes and cracks in glass, but he did recognize people’s frustration with finding a source to fix glass. He created the first commercial distribution firm, Novus Auto Glass, Inc. Through dealers and franchises, Novus eventually brought in more than $35 million in annual sales!
So how can this help you build your business?
Frustration leads to lost customers
For most shops, more than half of their business is repeat customers and referrals from repeat customers. Unfortunately, many shop owners take these customers for granted and do very little to ensure their continued loyalty. Unhappy customers generally don’t come back and those who were frustrated by long lines, long waits, complicated procedures, and/or rude service are almost certain to be unhappy about their repair experience.
Julie Baker, marketing professor and frustration researcher at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University, says it is a major source of frustration when customers are made to wait (and wait and wait). They may leave with their money still in their pockets, and possibly never return. She notes that it’s a pervasive issue in service-related companies, which cannot always serve everyone immediately.
Previous research has shown that most consumers would rather do almost anything else than stand in line and wait, including clean their bathrooms or visit the dentist.
Reducing the frustration
A recent research project by Dr. Baker and her colleagues points to five factors that affect the wait and what companies can do about it. The five factors were: (1) filled time (whether customers have something to do while waiting); (2) anxiety (which can make a wait seem longer than it is); (3) perceived justice (whether customers view the waiting procedures as fair); (4) affective commitment (the emotional attachment customers may have for a particular organization); and (5) the quality of the physical environment.
Examples of ways businesses can fill customers’ time include providing newspapers and magazines (current and fresh, not years old and tattered), televisions tuned to the news/weather or showing entertaining videos, colorful fish tanks, or free Internet access, among others.
Shops can fill customers’ time with engaging distractions in the waiting room, allay anxieties by reassuring the worried, make sure the waiting procedures are equitable, pay extra attention to loyal repeat customers, and ensure the waiting area is comfortable and attractive.
Many of the best shops have some or all of the above available for customers who must wait for a customer service representative or an estimator. But there are still many smaller shop owners who have not yet gotten the message: Unhappy customers generally don’t come back!
Create an exceptional repair experience
These days it’s difficult to differentiate your shop from the competition unless you’re the only quality shop in the area. Many shops now have state-of-the-art equipment, high-quality paint and relatively competent technicians. Your shop may have a few outstanding advantages, but it can be difficult to get the public to see the differences. To really stand out, you need something spectacular that everyone will recognize at a glance. Your waiting area provides you with an opportunity to do just that!
A shop may have limited reception and waiting space but I’ve seen many shops that have maximized the positive impact of even a small space. A mirrored wall instantly creates the illusion of a larger space. Since most customers who have just had an accident are stressed out, a colorful fish tank creates a soothing atmosphere.
New wide, flat screen TVs take up little space on a wall but can immediately create a living room feeling in a really high-pressure collision repair environment. Hiring a highly professional interior decorator may in fact be a good investment to create that exceptional waiting space.
Long before prospective customers arrive at your shop, they already have an opportunity to experience frustration with your business. In 2003, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Inc. created a pioneer study in customer frustration and has followed up in each of the past four years.
Globally, the major sources of customer frustration are consistent with their findings over the past four years: (1) Long hold times: 67 percent of consumers are frustrated by long hold times, and 88 percent would prefer to receive a call-back in 10 minutes rather than being on hold for that long. (2) Poor automation: 57 percent of consumers are frustrated by “press 1, 2 or 3" with too many or incorrect options, and 76 percent of consumers feel that companies are pushing them to use self-service systems instead of talking to live people. (3) Information repetition: 52 percent of consumers are frustrated by having to repeat information they’ve already provided.
While most shops have not yielded to the impulse to subject prospective customers to “press 1, 2 or 3” yet, many still put callers “on hold” to listen to mindless music or repetitive messages. Not all callers will become customers, but if each one is treated like he or she would be, fewer callers would hang up in frustration.
If there were any one thing I would want to impress on all of my customer service people, it would be: “Unhappy customers generally don’t come back!” Eliminating frustration from their first encounter with a shop would be a great way to keep them coming back.