What is Your Industry’s “IPad?”


In one issue of USA Today (August 16, 2011), there were two articles written about customer service in US and foreign auto markets that you might not have noticed.  One spoke of the decline in service rankings among Ford, GM and Chrysler.  The other talked about a foreign automaker providing iPads for the convenience of customers on their sales floor.

Auto Responders “Off”

First, it seems that although “Detroit”, aka US automakers, has “reinvented” itself, their customer service is on its way down (again).  Yep, all those snazzy advertisements, going “Green,” revamping the product lines to make the cars more fuel efficient, closing poor-performing dealerships and the government bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler has taught them nothing.

The Big Three are losing almost every customer service survey to luxury and foreign automakers…even the much maligned Toyota.  Customers and buyers are once again expressing their displeasure with the same old tactics and sales styles of American dealers.  “Production challenges for Japanese automakers provided an opportunity for Detroit to increase both market share and earnings, but declining customer satisfaction will make it difficult to sustain these gains as the Japanese companies begin to recover,” notes Claes Fornell of the survey reported in USA Today.

In the same issue of the paper another article talked about the use of iPads in Mazda dealerships.  iPads? What’s up with that?

Sales executives noticed that their increasingly savvy customers were asking questions that they couldn’t answer on the spot.  They were being caught off guard when a potential buyer stated a fact about theirs (or a competitor’s) model.  So to better equip their dealerships, Mazda is providing iPads (or similar tablets) for their dealers and sales people to respond to customers better.  It has gone so well, they are expanding the program.  In fact/a dealer in Massachusetts said, “People have told us in surveys that they want to make better use of their time at dealerships.”  Wow!  A manager who is listening to customers.  What a novel idea! 

Somewhere in your industry, there is an iPad that is changing your business forever.  It is answering needs in ways your older brother/sister (not just your father/mother) never dreamed of. 

What is the iPad in your business?  What is changing life in your industry forever? 

Meanwhile we cling to the same old tactics – favouring us over buyers and customers.  What boss thought this junk up?

Oh, by the way, luxury cars like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes still are maintaining top customer service reviews.  Even in a recession and “down” (it’s not down; it’s different!) auto market.  People will pay more for better value, even if the service is the only “value” they perceive.

The Gorilla on Your Roof

It was reported in June, 2010 that Chevrolet Motors corporate office sent a memo to their dealerships telling them to refrain from using the word “Chevy,” instead of the formal name of Chevrolet.  They cited that traditional branding has succeeded in several successful companies, and they used Coca-Cola as an example in the memo (Has anyone ever heard it called a “Coke”?).  

Why not go with a nick-name that your customers like and are comfortable with?  If the customer wants to buy a Chevy is it that important to correct them and call it a Chevrolet, or just sell them the car they want?

If your customers want something from you that is reasonable and will make more money for you, why wouldn’t you want to satisfy them?  I talk to leaders every week who refuse to offer services to their customers that they could offer, but they choose not to.

It’s against their “policy.”

Learn the lesson from the headlines of the auto industry. Savvy customers are fed up with old tactics, sleazy (at best) sales methods and outdated concepts.  They not only want more…they demand it!

I read this on a t-shirt about 20 years ago while conducting a basketball camp.  The words stuck with me:  “Somewhere someone is practicing basketball right now…and when you meet him in competition, he will beat you.”  It’s right, you are reading a t-shirt while your future competitor is practicing basketball. 

It reminds of a routine I heard on The (Stephen) Colbert Report about a nationwide campaign for unity among American elementary school students.  Thousands of US children participated in a single day.  That same day Colbert said, over one billion Chinese children studied… maths.  Do you get it?

OK, somewhere someone is researching customer/buyer trends, needs and movements.  He/she is studying what people want and will pay more for.  They are learning what people value and will pay top dollar for (And what they won’t pay for). 

They won’t care what your boss said to do (They believe customer values are the boss).  They won’t care what the “training manual” says (They study their customers and frequent buyers as their manual).  They won’t care what worked a mere two years ago (They care what is going on now).  They won’t ask permission to meet needs (They are empowered to meet needs instead of asking for permission).  They are using iPads when you are using crib notes (or inflatable gorillas on your roof).

And when they meet you in the marketplace, they will beat you and put you out of business. It won’t matter how much you pound on your chest or scream at the crowd.