What your customers see

WHEN customers visit your facility, what do they see?

Dudley Powell is president of Powell & Son Safety Service in Palmyra, Missouri. He also is serving this year as the president of the Truck-frame and Axle Repair Association (TARA). And he has been giving some thought to how his shop and the shops of others are perceived.

“Prospective customers and also our current customers are taking pictures of our organizations, not with a camera, but with mental images,” Powell told TARA members recently. “Perhaps we should take our new digital camera we got for Christmas and take some real pictures and use these pictures to rate our image.”

Powell has broken down the different areas of the typical shop, and he raises some specific questions about whether or not each matches up with what a customer might expect. Among them:

  • The parking lot. Is it orderly? Are vehicles parked systematically? When a customer or prospective customer arrives at the facility for the first time, can he easily identify where he is supposed to park? Is customer parking identified clearly? Is it convenient to the entrance of the facility, the parts counter, service department, or showroom?

  • Building exterior. Does the building need painting? How is the signage? Is it damaged or unacceptably worn? If the signage is lighted, is it fully illuminated, or are there bulbs that need to be replaced? Do secondary signs clearly help visitors find the entrance to the facility?

  • Building interior. Overall, is the building clean inside? Is it orderly?

  • Customer waiting room. Is it clean? Is it equipped with adequate reading material, radio, or television? Are literature racks close by? What about a photo album of trucks that have recently been completed?

  • Rest rooms. Are they clean? Properly stocked? Are they clearly marked with signs?

  • Employee appearance. Do the shop technicians have uniforms? Are they neat and clean? After seeing your technicians, do your customers trust them with their trucks?

  • Company vehicles. Some companies use their trucks as moving billboards. What does the condition of your vehicles say about your company? Are they in good repair? Are the graphics crisp? If so, display them prominently.

Powell points out, however, that the most powerful way to promote a company is through the interaction between its representatives and its customers. As such, those representatives should be:

  • Friendly

  • Helpful

  • Knowledgeable

  • Appreciative of the customer

  • Able to address the customer by name. Reintroduce yourself if necessary, Powell says.

  • Be careful how incoming telephone calls are handled. The voice should be upbeat, the call should be answered quickly, and no one should be left on hold.

“Perhaps this seems quite basic, but I encourage you to take pictures and closely inspect your facility. If you have a customer who you really respect, ask him questions, listen to him, and make the necessary changes.”

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