What the Grateful Dead Taught Me About Customer Service

Grateful Dead and Customer Service

History’s greatest touring band gave their customers what they wanted and never repeated a setlist.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Grateful Dead No. 57 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” The Grateful Dead were considered the greatest touring band in history. They performed more than 2,300 concerts. In their early career, the band also dedicated their time and talents to their community, the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, making available free food, lodging, music, and health care to all. It has been said the band performed “more free concerts than any band in the history of music.”

While the multitudes followed them mainly for their music, two other characteristics endeared their fans to them. Duplicating their principles will enable us to create relationships that will be just as enduring.

1. They Focused on Giving Their Customers What They Needed and Wanted.
All the technology being developed today to enhance the F&I process in dealerships will only be effective if it enables us to give customers more of what they want. Surveys galore tell us they want a process that respects their time and provides valuable information in an interactive format, uniquely tailored to their needs.

As general agents, we must provide great products as well as a great process to our dealer partners. Customers want an F&I manager who listens more than they have to, smiles more than they have to and cares more about their needs than they have to. They usually reward us by listening to us more than they planned to, buying more than they planned to and most importantly leaving the dealership happier and more “grateful” that they ever planned to. That will create some fans that will never buy anywhere else!

When an agent’s time spent working in a dealership or an F&I Managers time spent with a customer produces memorable moments, it is no coincidence that they usually turn into profitable efforts.

2. They Never Played the Same Concert Twice.
The Grateful Dead only knew the first song they were going to play before going onstage, and then let the energy of the audience and the flow of the show take it from there. Every dealer (the agent’s customer) and every car buyer (the F&I manager’s customer) has unique needs and situations. Our time spent with them allows us the opportunity to learn about them.

That requires the conversation be about them, not us. Discovering each person’s needs is a means to an end. The result is we must be able to recommend and customize a solution to the potential problems we discovered through our conversation.

Every time you offer a customized solution to a customer, it demonstrates you care about them. Fans of the Grateful Dead knew every time they were with the band it was going to be a great experience. What would make customers look forward to the interaction in a dealership instead of dreading parts of the negotiation? Simply, we must change the customer experience. Do our actions say we do the same thing with every one of our customers or do they communicate a desire to match what we do and offer based on what we have learned about them? Words such as “You told me earlier” or “Based on what we have learned together” make customers aware it is all about them. Almost makes you feel like you are at a Grateful Dead concert getting what you want — not what the band (F&I manager) wants!

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