Where’s the Service?

What is happening to service?  We are seeing that service is becoming a challenge for more and more dealers.  This is a dangerous situation for some. Too many are lacking any effective “price” response to online and other low price retailers and supply sources.  They are relying heavily on their service to keep them relevant.

Whether they are consumers or pros, customers are becoming more and more demanding.  Much of what they are demanding revolves around service.  We all know that good service has long been a strong differentiator.  But today, great service has become a competitive necessity.

Our channel has typically enjoyed a favorable service image.  Recently, the home improvement channel received a good “report card” from the J.D. Power 2017 Home Improvement Retailers Satisfaction Study.  2017 overall customer satisfaction scores were up over 2016 and several key channel brands received strong customer satisfaction scores.

However, somewhat concerning of late is that our local market research, both consumer and pro studies have shown some slippage in how well service is being provided.  This is coming as a surprise to some who thought they we providing good, great or even “world class” service levels.  This is a problem.  Not only that the service levels are slipping, but even more importantly that management is unaware.  In many instances, specific service components deemed less important (from traditional thought) emerged as being of greater importance.  Other service issues thought to be of high importance, actually were not.

It is interesting that a recent white paper by IBM reported that almost 90% of brands are expecting to compete on the basis of their service experience.  They question is can they?  Just over 80% of those companies surveyed believe they understand their customers….and can provide a great customer experience, but over 60% of their customers disagreed.  That large of a disconnect gap strongly suggests that many companies should take steps to find out what their customers really want and what is most important from a service experience.

“Even in a large market like home improvement, it’s the attention to detail that can affect customer satisfaction”

Greg Truex,  Senior Director, J.D. Power and Associates

Central to addressing service slippage is gaining a better understanding of service needs in your market.  You need to know what are the priority service issues, how they are changing and how they differ by type of customer/end user segment.  You then need to measure how well you are performing across the broad spectrum of specific service elements including (but not necessarily limited to):

 Consumer Service Elements

  • Stronger online presence

  • Seamless online and store experience

  • Mobile friendly

  • Zero defect in-stock

  • Knowledgeable staff

  • Easy to get questions answered

  • Buy online and pick up/return in-store

  • Quick checkouts

  • Easy to find merchandise

  • Friendly flexible staff

  • Installation services

  • Signage that helps select products

  • Individual personal service

  • Special services (glass, screen, keys, etc.)

  • Easy special order

  • Fast and cheap delivery

  • Signage that lists products for projects

Pro Service Elements

  • Complete and accurate orders

  • On-time delivery

  • Good inside sales and support staff

  • Easy in and out

  • Good outside sales staff

  • Online job/order management/tracking

  • Mobile friendly and easy to navigate website

  • Resolves issues fast

  • Friendly staff

Knowing exactly where you have service weaknesses allows you to target those with proper corrective resources.  But, it is equally important to know where you excel with service.  These strengths can then be leveraged to better differentiate your brand on service.

Need some help?

The Farnsworth Group provides a wide range of market research services that can help you better understand the service needs of you customers, potential customers, and examine how well you are aligning your service offerings with your market’s service priorities.

Learn how The Farnsworth Group can provide market research to assist you with your service enhancement initiatives by contacting Jim Robisch at 317.241.5600 ext. 109 or jrobisch@thefarnsworthgroup.com.

Written by: Jim Robisch, Sr. Partner of Retail, The Farnsworth Group