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In 1967, “Light My Fire” by The Doors became “the first single from Elektra Records to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.”

That single came from The Doors’ debut album, which they recorded in the summer of 1966. Oddly enough, in that same year The Doors also provided the soundtrack for a Ford training film entitled, “Love Thy Customer” (see below).

While the Doors connection was what brought this film to my attention, what kept my attention was the actual content. As the title suggests, the focus of the film is “customer experience.” And I couldn’t help but notice that the film’s primary message rings as true today as it did 50 years ago.

Begin with Empathy

The intended audience of this film were the “guys” (if you watch the film to the end, you’ll get a refreshing reminder of what sexism looked like circa ’66) working in the service department at Ford dealerships.

Working in a service department can be aggravating. As the film describes it, one factor served to make the job even more aggravating back then: Ford had instituted a two-year warranty plan around that time. This greatly increased the volume of repairs and maintenance that the service techs had to deal with.

The film does a good job of first acknowledging that, yes, customers can be annoying. And when people are getting their cars fixed, their ignorance and fear of getting ripped off can make them even less pleasant.

Of course, as you might expect, Ford wasn’t about to tell its employees that they were right to think of customers as jerks. Instead, they ask employees to think about all the reasons that a customer might be demanding, untrusting, or downright rude.

The film then recommends a number of strategies and behaviors that service techs can adopt in order to make the customer experience more pleasant.

Do It Right. Do It Once.

Most of the recommendations revolve around three qualities that Ford sought to instill in its workers: friendliness; patience; and honesty. Of course, being friendly, patient, and honest with people was as good advice in 1966 as it was in 1766 and as it will be in 2066. In other words, easy to say, hard to do when things get stressful.

The more concrete and practical recommendation that the film makes is this: Do it right. Do it once.

As the narrator points out, one thing that makes customers really unhappy is paying for a job and then discovering that the problem still exists. Whereas a customer may be reasonably cheerful on their initial visit, there is a high probability that they won’t be on a return visit.

To eliminate this major cause of customer frustration and service tech aggravation, the film talks a lot about the benefit of doing the job right the first time.

It’s Still True!

As you might expect, when it comes to improving customer satisfaction and reducing wasted or repeated effort in the service department, fixing it the first time is still a proven tactic.

Figure 1. The Business Impact of a “First-Time Fix”

first_time_fix_benefits

Aberdeen research from early last year demonstrated, as you can see here, that high first-time fix rates were actually correlated with some significant business results. For example, organizations that had first-time fix rates also tended to see greater year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction. Indeed, they saw a 43% greater improvement in customer satisfaction than those with poor rates.

More importantly, companies that excelled at first-time fixing also saw a 58% greater increase in revenue year over year. Interestingly enough, the film makes a similar connection by highlighting how happy customers will be more willing to, for example, buy “commissionable accessories.”

Past is Prologue

Talk of customer-centricity and differentiating on customer experience are all the rage today. But as this film shows us, these ideas, perhaps by different names, have been around for a while.

And although a positive attitude on the part of customer-facing employees may be a key ingredient when it comes to producing a positive customer experience, as this film highlights, there are also very concrete actions – like fixing things the first time – that can have as big an impact.

Take a look!

 

 

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