It’s Your Business
- Author: Terry Greenhut
- Subject Matter: Shop management
- Issue: Be respectful
For best results, extend respect to customers, coworkers, and suppliers
18th in a series
I believe the most significant management skill is the ability to deal effectively with customers, coworkers and suppliers. If you can continually treat all three groups with the respect they deserve just for being who they are there’s a good chance they will respond in kind. Customers will want to come to you because they know they will be well treated. Techs will want to work with and for you because you make them feel safe in their environment, and suppliers will want to go out of their way to help you because you don’t try to chisel them on every deal.
I’ve always worked hard to maintain good relationships in business because it’s important to me that I feel comfortable anywhere I go. In my own shops I always wanted to feel good about opening the front door in the morning. I don’t think I could have lasted very long with a line of people waiting to scream at me every day. I know that there are some shop owners and managers who don’t let that kind of turmoil phase them, but I’m not one of them. I need customers to tell me how happy they are with my service and how they wouldn’t want to go anywhere else unless it was a dire emergency or they were so far away that I couldn’t possibly be of service to them. As far as I know there is only one way to get that – by treating them extremely well.
Going out of your way to help customers even when it’s inconvenient for you to do it shows your true colors. It’s easy to help when what they need falls nicely into your work flow and the parameters of what you normally do, but when it doesn’t, that’s when you can shine.
Now for the story …
… that prompted me to write this article at this particular time. Having moved from New York to Florida about three years ago, I left all the shops behind that cared for my vehicles. So, like anyone moving into a new area far away from their original home I had to find new suppliers for the services I needed.
It was by happy accident that I found the right shop with the right owner to take care of my family’s auto repair needs. To be honest, I didn’t find this shop, my daughter did. She tore up a tire on her Jeep Cherokee driving around on the construction site that is the renovation location of the house we have all been rebuilding for her family to live in for the last three years. It was the first of four tires on three different vehicles that have been damaged on that site, the last being on my new Ford Explorer.
Her 2016 Jeep Cherokee was brand new when she had her first tire problem. The Jeep dealer she called, obviously not caring about doing any future business with her, said that she needed to go to a tire store that was an authorized dealer for that brand of tire. She explained that she had a one-year-old baby in the car and that she couldn’t put the spare on herself. That didn’t bother the voice on the other end of the phone. He just kept saying there was nothing he could do to help her. She Googled “Firestone dealers” and called the nearest one. She was told that they couldn’t do anything for her but sell her a new tire after she somehow got the car to their store. Of course that wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear. Remembering that she had been driving past a general repair shop every day on her way to working on the house she decided to give them a call.
I’ll call the shop XYZ Automotive for the purpose of this story because unless you live in or around Clearwater Beach, Fla., it wouldn’t matter to you anyway. What’s most important is the way the owner conducts his business.
In a time when many shops are struggling, XYZ’s owner has found a way to keep his bays full and his customers far more than happy. There’s no big secret formula and nothing outrageous about what he does; it’s caring and common sense that makes it all work.
When my daughter called XYZ and explained the problem, without a moment’s hesitation the owner said, “Tell me exactly where you are and I’ll send someone right out to help you.” He didn’t talk about any charges that would be involved or even what he was planning to do other than get someone right out there to help.
When the young tech showed up 15 minutes later He put the spare tire on the car and asked her to follow him back to the shop. Arriving there, she was greeted by an owner whose smile alone gave her confidence that everything was going to be all right. He looked at the damaged tire and said two words, “road hazard.” He then proceeded to call the same tire dealer who wanted to sell my daughter a new tire, and he got them to warranty it and send over a brand-new one. She was charged a very fair amount for the shop’s services which, by the way, at no extra charge included checking all the other tires, fluid levels, and a quick safety inspection of the underside of the car. Within an hour she was on her way.
That night she told me about her experience and said, “Dad, if you have a problem with any of the cars, XYZ is the only place you should go.”
About two months later my wife somehow got a screw imbedded in one of her tires at the same site. She got the low tire warning on her dash and drove right to XYZ and had it fixed without any hassle whatsoever. Even though the shop was busy and the owner didn’t know her from Adam, he accommodated her quickly and in a most congenial manner. While there she got an oil change and had everything else checked. She raved about the experience.
Last week I made the mistake of pulling into my daughter’s driveway with my new Explorer instead of parking out in the street. When I left my right rear tire started to lose air. Of course I went right to XYZ. The shop was busy as always but also short-handed because of vacations. The owner came out and apologized that he wouldn’t be able to get me in for about a half hour and asked if I wanted to go somewhere else. My answer was, “There is nowhere else. I don’t want any shop but yours touching any of my cars. I’ll be happy to wait as long as it takes.” Long story short, he found a drill bit stuck in the tire, which I later handed to my son-in-law and asked, “Were you looking for this?”
My experience with XYZ, although not typical, should be. If more owners took the attitude that they are in business strictly to serve their customers and made it so easy to do business with them that customers could hardly say “no,” there would be a lot more bays full in a lot more shops.
It really comes down to treating people the way you would want to be treated. Think about what you would want from a shop and give that same treatment to your customers. I know what I would want. See if you agree with me.
Here’s my want list
- When I call, the phone is answered promptly and courteously by someone who sounds like they actually care about helping me.
- To be told that whatever I need can be taken care of without having to make me jump a bunch of unnecessary hurdles.
- To be taken care of quickly when I’m in a hurry or stuck in some dangerous place that I really need to get out of.
- To easily be able to drop the car off to be fixed and a ride home or to work if I need it.
- To be listened to when I am trying to explain a problem.
- Not to be intimidated by some smart aleck mechanical wizard who tries to make me feel stupid for not knowing everything he does.
- My needs explained to me in language that I can understand.
- An honest estimate of what my charges might be, not one that starts out low followed by three more phone calls raising it each time.
- A realistic time frame for the service or repair so I can make plans for my day around it and not have to keep changing them.
- My vehicle fixed right the first time, if at all possible, and to be given another means of transportation to use if it is not.
- To be called and told early enough if the work will not be finished when promised so I can make other arrangements.
- To be able to pay conveniently and pick up the car even after the shop closes for the day.
- Offered a ride to the shop to pick up the car if I don’t have another way to get there.
14) A final bill that is in line with the original estimate. No 5 o’clock surprise and a little lower would always be appreciated.
- To be sincerely thanked for my business and reassured that everything is all right.
- To be treated well and given priority if I have to come back with a warranty issue.
- To receive a follow-up call or text within a day or two to make sure that all my issues are resolved and reminders when future services are required.
Am I asking too much? I don’t think so. As a customer who is going to give a shop money and continuing business, I think my want list is reasonable. If you don’t and your shop isn’t doing as well as you think it should, that could be the reason why. Think about what you might change to meet your customers’ expectations.