Debbie Mayo-Smith

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Debbie Mayo-Smith: Customer service lessons from a fender bender

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A picture of a dog? A family picture? Look on the walls for areas to talk about that might help start the relationship. Photo / Thinkstock
A picture of a dog? A family picture? Look on the walls for areas to talk about that might help start the relationship. Photo / Thinkstock

You wouldn't think having an automobile accident can be a stress free pleasure. However when you have excellent customer service, it's worth mentioning and looking into for business lessons to learn from.

Last week a young, completely uninsured young man dropped his cell phone in his car. While driving. When he bent down to pick it up, he ploughed directly into our parked car - with speed. Luckily we got his details. You know how we are all so dependent on our cars. I felt a huge burden on my shoulders from getting I towed, to the dollars, to getting around.

We're insured with State - part of the IAG group. I have found dealing with them has always been a pleasure (yes, really). You have probably read umpteen articles bemoaning bad customer service in New Zealand. This experience though, with a large institution and one of their partners, CBD Panel & Paint (where our little Getz will be living for a few weeks), gives us lessons to learn on great customer service.

Make it easy

With one phone call, everything was handled- removing all that stress and problem from my shoulders onto theirs. They had the car towed, inspected and sent to one of their affiliated repair shops. Because we were lucky enough to get the contact details of the uninsured driver, they handle the problem of seeking reimbursement.

Relief for us, dollars and sense for the IAG group. It is logical for them to have all phases of automobile repair handled internally so they can utilise the bargaining power a large institution can achieve. What is lovely is they do it in a way that makes it easy and pleasant for their customers.

Do you make it easy? How do you handle your customers' problems? Do you have set procedures you've enabled staff with? Have you set up systems to save your business money? Do you accept complaints with a smile?

Align yourself with great partners

I had a call first thing the next morning from Tyrone, owner of CBD Panel & Paint.

Question one. Were we happy to allow them to handle the repair, or did we want to have it taken elsewhere? He answered all questions graciously, leaving me with the feeling I could trust him. Even though the paperwork and details weren't finalised with State, he gave us a loaner car that morning.

Are the businesses you work with adhering to the same customer service philosophy and actions you are? If your partners let you down, the whole experience for your customers changes.

Document and review what will happen

At CBD, every step was explained in detail. Some were from a laminated page that we could follow - or any of Tyrones staff for that matter. We'll be getting twice weekly email updates with photos. Several more check marks in relieving stress and improved customer experience.

What is your procedure for returns, problems, complaints, repairs? Is it documented and taught so that any staff member can do it? If you don't have a procedure set up to keep clients abreast of progress, how easy is it with email and smartphones now to do so? Even simple text messaging is a good idea.

When having an accident can be such a pleasure - we really do need to ask why our everyday experiences still beg to be improved? From standing on long lines at the movies, supermarkets, prepaying for petrol - you can see that most businesses are still inwardly focused to saving money on additional staff or processes rather than surprising customers and growing turnover.


Written by international speaker and bestselling author Debbie Mayo-Smith. For more tips, over 500 how-to articles visit Debbie's article webpage.

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