Business Tools

Excellent Customer Service Comes Down to Good Communication

SEMA Member News—July/ August 2011

What Is Customer Service?

The SEMA Education Institute (SEI) is just one of the offerings that can make a difference for HRIA-member companies. Online classes are available 24/7 to provide resources and tools for your staff’s professional development. Visit the SEI section of the SEMA website for an updated list of upcoming classes.

Customer service is nothing more than communication. We are not selling just metal, chrome, rubber or plastic. We are selling information and services.

So what does the customer really want from you? Well, think about what you would want if you were the customer. You are perfectly willing to pay a fair price for a product that you have decided best serves your purpose. Your selection criteria may range widely based on price, quality, delivery, features, reputation and so on. When you are ready to make a purchase, you have formed expectations about all of these categories. All you want is to have those expectations fulfilled.

What if those expectations are unrealistic? Whose fault is that? The blame for unrealistic expectations falls squarely on the business.

Part of the “product” is to properly explain the component or service in its entirety, including features, price, delivery time, warranty, performance and any other relevant information that a customer might need.

Communication seems so simple, but it eludes so many. I would venture to say that 95% of all customer service issues could be favorably resolved with better communication. Take the time to over-inform your customer, telling him or her all about your product or service before the sale. An educated customer is a happy customer. And in this day and age, websites make it exceedingly easy to offer a ridiculous amount of information at virtually no extra expense.

Let’s look at some of the top customer complaints:


Delayed Shipping: A customer was told that the item would arrive in three to five days, but it took 10. That’s poor communication.

Wrong/Missing Parts: Caused by a failure by the engineering department to properly communicate to the shipping department exactly what is supposed to go in the box.

Tech Support: This area is all about communication and can be addressed in two parts:

  • Provide instructions that show customers how to properly install your product without boring them or confusing them—which takes expert communication!
  • Provide expert live tech help. Your customer called because he or she has a problem. Fix it!

Your product is not finished just because it fits the car and improves performance. It is not finished until you have communicated the entire package of information about the component and the sales experience surrounding it to the end customer. When you complete that circle of information, you will see your tech calls go down and your customer (and staff) satisfaction go up.

And remember that customers talk to their friends….

How HRIA, SEMA and PWA Can Help

In challenging economic times and an ever-changing industry, your customer service staff is your front line to success. The Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA), SEMA and PWA provide a variety of tools and resources to assist you with constant improvement of your customer service and technical support staff. Some of that assistance includes:

HRIA Education Day: HRIA hosts the annual Education Day each year, at the Hotrod & Restoration Show in Indianapolis. This day-long summit includes training sessions from manufacturers and professionals that will help your staff sell, support and serve your customers better.

SEMA Education Institute (SEI): Online classes are available 24/7 for all SEMA-member companies to provide resources and tools for your staff’s professional development. These webinars include topics related to customer service, sales, marketing and technical support. Visit the SEI section of the SEMA website for an updated list of upcoming classes.

SEMA Show Education Sessions: SEMA provides top-notch training at the annual SEMA Show from some of the nation’s most well-regarded trainers and professionals. Training topics include customer service and sales solutions, exhibitor product training, marketing, business efficiency and much more. Resources from past sessions are also available online free from the SEMA website.

PWA University: The Professional Warehouse Association provides free training programs online at that can improve skills and offer tools for jobbers, retailers, warehouse distributors, sales reps and manufacturers to evaluate the product knowledge of their key employees as well as their inside and outside sales people. The results of these lessons show training administrators the areas where their workforce may need improvement.

Upcoming HRIA Events

Summertime is not only car show season, but also HRIA planning season. Throughout the summer, HRIA holds open meetings for its member companies. HRIA provides industry and legislative updates at these sessions that are important to your business, and the council also seeks input and ideas for the prosperity of the member businesses and the hot-rodding hobby. Upcoming meetings include:

  • July 7, General Meeting, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m., Goodguys Nationals, Columbus, Ohio
  • August 8, General Meeting, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m., NSRA Nationals, Louisville, Kentucky