Lean Customer Care Strategies for the Automotive AftermarketHave you ever interacted with a company that is clearly cutting back on customer service?

This can be a miserably inefficient experience, rife with unexpected wait times and repetition of information. Cheap customer service does not create positive experiences. Lean customer service, on the other hand, does.

Consider the Lean Healthcare Suitability

Last week I wrote, "Why Lean Principles are Ideal for Healthcare" and talked about how Lean management helps empower medical professionals to create more efficient processes.

In the arena of ultimate user experience management, where a negative outcome might involve death, Lean management excels.

Speed is key here—and it should be in your Lean customer service organization. As an intellectual exercise, try viewing your customers as patients. How can you "heal" them more efficiently?

Get Necessary Data Immediately

Poor data means inefficient service.

For example, imagine a customer service representative spends an hour trying to resolve an issue with one audio product, only to discover that the customer has accidentally read her the wrong model number. Similar waste happens daily in most organizations.

Consider options that permit instant data gathering. If you operate a brick and mortar store or service center, you may wish to offer customers a loyalty card that records their purchasing history.

If you use eCommerce, task your web development team with installing a ticketing system that permits detailed notes on every account and ticket. Options such as GetSatisfaction are both Lean-friendly and fairly affordable.

Reduce Unnecessary Movement (Between Representatives)

Long hold times as calls are transferred hurt your Net Promoter Score. These inefficient waiting periods are not compatible with Lean.

Consider every call transfer a "movement," and eliminate unnecessary ones.

For instance, do you really need to transfer your customer from sales to service simply to make an appointment? Why not give sales access to a user-friendly system that lets them book service calls?

Are CSRs' Hours Vanishing Into a "Black Hole?"

Which of your customers spends the most of your employees' time on senseless service requests? Are they buying enough products and services to justify that level of attention?

Consider jettisoning customers who present an extremely negative value proposition when revenue per customer is compared to the costs of service per customer.

Efficiency Over Small Victories

Customers sometimes demand things to which they are not entitled; that much is universal.

Chances are, your employees adhere to policy when this occurs, leaning on responses such as, "Sorry, but we cannot refund items purchased more than 30 days ago."

Employees should support policy and avoid unnecessary expenditures, but are they spending more by arguing than they would by acquiescing?

Train employees to habitually evaluate the value of continuing a service call. If the amount in dispute is small, it may be wiser to say something such as, "We do not accept returns past 30 days, but I am willing to make an exception and refund this item. Just promise me you will give us another chance the next time you need a part for your vehicle!"

Then the ticket closes, your representative moves on, and the customer is happy.