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GUEST COMMENTARY: How to Go Beyond Customer Service and Deliver Customer Value

The following guest commentary comes from Joe Mejaly, vice president and general manager of ArvinMeritor’s Commercial Vehicle Aftermarket (CVA) business. His comments are excerpted from remarks made in October to a national meeting of warehouse distributors and independent service garage operators. ArvinMeritor provides its parts and services to and through authorized parts outlets, including warehouse distributors and OE dealers.

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The following guest commentary comes from Joe Mejaly, vice president and general manager of ArvinMeritor’s Commercial Vehicle Aftermarket (CVA) business. His comments are excerpted from remarks made in October to a national meeting of warehouse distributors and independent service garage operators. ArvinMeritor provides its parts and services to and through authorized parts outlets, including warehouse distributors and OE dealers.

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Customer service is about providing the right part or right repair so the vehicle is ready when you say it will be. Retaining customers and building referrals, says Joe Mejaly, depends on your ability to deliver customer value.

"Value goes beyond customer service. It’s the degree to which customers feel like they’re getting their money’s worth," said Mejaly, vice president and general manager of ArvinMeritor’s Commercial Vehicle Aftermarket business. "It’s like the old saying that people will forget what you did, and they’ll forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel."

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How do dealers, shops, and distributors deliver value? Mejaly offers three insights:

1. CUSTOMER VALUE

"For example, why would a truck owner go to an independent shop instead of taking the vehicle to a dealership?," Mejaly asks. "The dealership has skilled technicians and a well-stocked parts department, too. But maybe the smaller shop can get the truck into the service bay faster, meaning less downtime for the truck owner. There’s value when the shop (or dealership) shares the customer’s sense of urgency."

2. PRODUCT VALUE

No business can afford the liability of selling or installing parts that don’t perform like the original. If you can’t see or explain the differences between a genuine OE part and a cheaper will-fit, ask your suppliers for help. "They can help you add value through training your technicians to work faster and with fewer errors. They can produce a catalog and order-entry system that’s easy to use," Mejaly says.

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3. PEOPLE VALUE

You can train people to respond to questions, but value comes when those questions are handled with grace and authority. Mejaly offers three things owners and managers can say that will create opportunities for their people to deliver value:

* "It’s OK to put work on hold." Countermen, office staff and technicians — they all have jobs to do. But when a customer needs attention, whatever they’re doing can wait.

* "We’re all in customer service." Train everyone to help customers regardless of job title or department. Give them real authority to solve problems, like a discretionary budget to offer a refund or a discount without worrying about repercussion. "That way they can recover a customer without having to put him on hold while they seek a supervisor’s approval," says Mejaly.

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* "How are we doing?" Ask customers what they think about you. A study from TARP Worldwide shows that one unhappy customer will tell nine others about his bad experience, but he probably won’t tell you: Ninety-six percent of dissatisfied customers don’t complain directly. Instead, they just don’t come back.

As a company owner or manager, you set the tone for your employees to deliver value. When that happens, customers will look no farther than you for a good experience.

Joe Mejaly is vice president and general manager of ArvinMeritor’s Commercial Vehicle Aftermarket (CVA) business, with North American headquarters in Florence, KY. Other operations maintained in Europe, South America, Mexico, Australia, and Canada. ArvinMeritor provides its Meritor and Euclid parts and services to and through authorized parts outlets, including warehouse distributors and OE dealers.

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