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How to Make Everyone Look Good

By: Dr. Jim Goldstein

During the time that I was the customer service manager at Rosenthal Acura, I would meet weekly with all the department managers to identify problems and handle customer complaints.  Wherever possible, we would redesign our processes to resolve them.

According to the sales managers, the salesmen, whose cash bonuses were directly affected by customer ratings, often complained that they were forfeiting their bonuses not because of their actions but because of their customers’ treatment by the finance person before completing the sale.  I decided to look at the numbers and meet with all the salesmen to address this issue.

They would point to the results and say, “You see? In all my other categories I am earning 5’s (on a 1 – 5 scale). The only bad rating is their experience in the finance office.  Why should I be penalized because they didn’t like their experience with the finance person? It’s not fair.”

At first glance I could see their point.  In examining the data, however, there was one exception that blew their theory apart. One salesman, Steve Dorfman, consistently earned 5’s across all categories including the customer’s experience in the finance office!

I asked them, “How can you explain that? Steve is sending them into the same finance person and on his sheet, they are rating their finance experience a ‘5’.” No one had an answer so we asked Steve about how he accomplished this.

What Steve Dorfman was doing was setting his customers’ expectations so that they were prepared to have a great experience in the finance office.  He would say, “You are going to meet Mike in a few minutes.  He’s a great guy and close friend of mine.  You’ll love him.  He’ll be able to answer any questions you have about financing or other services you might want and if there is any way he can save you money on this deal, he will.  He’ll really take care of you.  I’ll be waiting for you as soon as you are done.”

What a difference from how the other salesmen were operating!  After the meeting, some of them admitted to me that they never gave any thought to setting expectations before handing the client to the finance person.  Later, when asked for feedback, the customers, not realizing that the salesman would be penalized for the overall score, rated their salesman high and their finance office experience lower.

Unmet expectations are a well known cause of upset feelings. Setting expectations correctly (including how long things might take) and supporting everyone on the team is the key to a consistently high customer service experience.

Because of Steve’s attitude and endorsement, his customers expected to have a good experience and they did.

Have you ever worked in a culture where it was acceptable to regularly demean people in other departments or agencies? What effect might that have on a customer’s feelings toward the entire company or agency?

Please comment below.




4 responses to “How to Make Everyone Look Good”

  1. Ian Altman says:

    Jim – I love that you not only shared a valuable story, but related it to issues that would resonate with other businesses. Steve is a model of impeccable service – so fortunate that he now helps businesses attain the same levels of service he established. I bought several cars from Steve back in the day, and he always thought of everything to make the process wonderful for the client.

    The way you help people see how their own actions and those of others can impact the overall organization is a valuable asset that I often overlooked in my businesses.

    Thanks for sharing a great example.

  2. Reading your perspective here, Jim, has me realize just how effective it is to manage expectations — even go so far as to under-promise and over-deliver.

    We tend to be eternal optimists, so…
    While in that role, I noticed that many of my co-workers would have their clients believe they’d only be in the finance office for 10-15 minutes (the rare exception, not the rule). When that process took longer, of course, many clients would become agitated. Knowing it would be 30 minutes, on average, I’d estimate 45-55 minutes for my clients. Under-promising and offering a range can prove effective.

    Thanks for sharing this story. I certainly enjoyed my 11 years at Rosenthal Acura.

  3. oliver beale says:

    Interesting analysis of a good salesperson. I would think any trained salesperson would operate that way.

  4. Bill Salmansohn says:

    Great words, great insight, great article

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