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  • It may be intuitive, but it’s certainly worth repeating: the customer journey starts, firstly, with listening, and secondly, through the ways in which you treat people, especially your own staff. It certainly does not start when the customer walks through your door or visits your website. Active in the U.S. since 2009 and Canada since 1993, our company has earned numerous customer choice awards and achieved what we label ‘sustained growth’ through a disruptive model that found its origins in customer feedback. As we wrap up an oh-so unconventional year, I thought I’d share a “top 5” of how we’ve built this culture of listening and service that has supported our steady growth over the years in the many distinct regions we serve. As you’ll see or relate, this type of growth plan works in any market or cultural setting.

    1. Identify customers pain points and address them

    Understanding customer pain points is actually quite easy. It starts with asking – and then collating and assessing the feedback with an empowered management team. Devising a concrete response to such pain points and resolving them usually leads to immediate satisfaction and deep-seeded affinity among both your customers and employees. During the car buying process, we quickly realized that customers dislike uncertainty as to the condition of a vehicle, lack of clarity on fees, and intense negotiating. Armed with this knowledge, we quickly packaged an incentive program that allows our staff to get rewarded based on customer service performance; not by sales amounts or profit margins.

    2. Make the experience personal

    Everyone deserves our full presence and attention. They need to feel they are important – even through a quick visit to your website. A personalized service experience increases engagement, builds a longstanding connection between the brand and the customer and makes everyone feel valued. It also spreads like wildfire through word of mouth, endorsements, repeat business, and positive online reviews. In 2019, with Matador, we launched our online personalized chatbot that effectively conveys to customers that we care about them — enough to invest in personalized chats with them, pretty much as soon as they visit us online. As well, as part of our training and onboarding programs, we encourage staff to invest all of the time needed to help each customer find the car that is best suited for their needs — and that sometimes takes time to figure out.

    3. Have a continuous understanding of what is important to your customers

    Customer expectations are always changing, so having an understanding of how your customers think or any new challenges they face is important. The pandemic, for example, has accelerated the shift to online shopping. Customers from all age groups have become forward-thinking, prioritizing convenience and health over in-store visits. Anticipating that, HGreg.com launched its HGreg Direct service in 2015. HGreg Direct is a virtual showroom and a budding service that allows for fast and convenient ‘contact-free’ shopping. As part of this service, customers can simply find their favorite car, chat with a sales associate and be guided through a quick and convenient online shopping experience with almost no direct contact – if they so choose.

    4. Measure and analyze customer experience data for future improvements

    A business seeking a healthy foundation must measure and analyze its customer experience data – quickly, repeatedly, and while also sharing it among managers and leadership. This is how a company can enculturate measurement into its DNA. Our company’s Concierge Department and Customer Success Manager handles the post-sale and customer satisfaction experience. They monitor and manage customer feedback and online reviews on a weekly and monthly basis in a Customer Experience report. Regularly tracking increases or declines in each store’s star-ratings helps us identify any concerns that need to be addressed. These Customer Experience reports are shared with general managers, our marketing teams, and corporate leadership (CEO, CMO, CFO, VP, and others).

    5. From associates to ambassadors
    The business world is to be coming to terms with this simple notion – a brand promise is only ratified and rendered 100% credible when the staff community – full-time, part-time, and even those who have retired or move on – can corroborate the company’s outward facing messages and attributes. This requires treating your employees as your front-line brand ambassadors – and getting them involved or aware of as many aspects of your business. That comes down to training, both when staff are onboarded and throughout their careers.

    * * * * *

    And remember that excellence or leadership does not come through a cookie-cutter mold. Explore each of these broad areas, working them as best you can, with much creativity, perseverance, and partnerships within your organization regardless of what happens around you.

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