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Customer Service: Be Great or Be Gone

SEMA News—April 2011

Be Great or Be Gone

    Chris Kersting-President and CEO, SEMA
Customer service has become a key difference-maker in an interconnected world. The growth of social media means a single customer can broadcast what he or she thinks of your company, good or bad. And others can give that message an exponential pop—making or breaking your company’s image. Where customers have multiple options for parts and service, business leaders agree that building customer loyalty based on service is imperative.

On SEMA.org, you’ll find a recent SEMA webinar devoted to customer service. If you missed this presentation, we hope you get a chance to download it. It contains valuable tips that apply to any business, large or small. The webinar is also a tool to remind everyone in your company that customer service isn’t a department, it’s a moment-to-moment attitude.

Here at SEMA, we are fundamentally a service organization. We’re here to help our members’ businesses succeed and prosper. Part of that comes by producing a world-class trade show, but SEMA can’t be excellent without working closely with our customers—and providing great service. Since the only way to improve is to recognize where you have an issue, we’ve initiated processes to encourage feedback. Since 2008, we’ve conducted an annual study that measures member satisfaction. We find that in certain categories, a high percentage of members are either “satisfied” or “very satisfied,” but each study has also showed us where we have some work to do.

One fundamental change we’ve made recently was aimed at improving our ability to handle callers. We put in a new phone system that allows people to dial directly, but more importantly, when calls do land at the switchboard, it goes to a customer service specialist who makes sure the right person follows up.

After the call, we regularly send out a two-minute customer service survey that solicits specific feedback about the interaction. These are the kinds of improvements any business can make—not by hiring more workers, but by refocusing the responsibilities of the people they already have.

We’ve also instituted Town Hall Meetings with our members. The premise is simple: There is no better way to find out what is on your customer’s mind than face-to-face interaction. We’ve put three Town Hall Meetings on the calendar for the first six months of 2011, and we’d be thrilled to see you at the next one, April 8, in Fort Worth, Texas. You can check the schedule by pulling down the “Events” tab on SEMA.org.

Another way we are improving service is through our Exhibitor Summit meetings. That’s where we invite SEMA Show exhibitors to meet with us in advance of the SEMA Show to explore ways to improve ROI from the SEMA Show. Feedback from meetings such as these helps us hone our Show operations. Look under the “Events” tab on SEMA.org for scheduling and to sign up.

Experts will tell you that customer service is a continuous process. No matter how much progress is made from one year to the next, it’s never done. You can always get better. Speaking for ourselves, we intend to keep the throttle on, and the service level moving in the right direction.

—Chris Kersting, SEMA President and CEO