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We all have those customers that focus on price alone. And we all struggle with our persistent attempts at converting them into believers. Believers of the concept that, while we cannot totally dismiss price, it’s the value of the product or service the customer needs to consider when making a purchase. What’s funny about these customers is that each visit tends to start with a complaint about price, even before the car is looked at. We recently had a situation that started off on the wrong foot, with price being the issue; but ended up a win for us, and for the customer.

Charlie Challenge (not his real name) arrived at our shop and asked for an estimate on replacing the timing chain for his Nissan Altima. My service advisor responded with, “Mr. Challenge, that’s a big job.  How do you know your car needs a timing chain?” Charlie replied back, “Another shop checked it out and they told me it does. Can you please give me a price?” My advisor continued with, “Well, before we do anything, we need to perform a few tests to make sure you really do need a timing chain.” Charlie emphatically replied back, “And how much is that going to cost? All you guys want is my money! I asked for one thing; a price on a timing chain and you just want to make more money on something I already know I need!” 

It took a lot of composure, but my advisor calmly stated all the reasons why testing is the best way to go, emphasizing the fact that if we replace the chain and it’s not the problem, the money spent would be wasted. Charlie shook his head, threw the keys on the counter and authorized the testing. 

I’ve known Charlie for a long time. He’s not a bad guy. But price is always the topic of discussion. He has told me in the past that I should take a look at what other shops charge, and be more competitive with my prices. I have told Charlie that I don’t, and never will, price my services by what other shops are charging. I have also told him to look beyond price and look at the value you get. Besides, all the quality shops that I know are pretty much the same when it comes to pricing.  

During the write-up process, Charlie revealed to my service advisor that the check engine light had been on, and that’s why he took his car to the other shop. The other shop replaced a valve timing solenoid, but that didn’t fix the problem. He was then told that the next step was to replace the chain. 

Later that morning, the car was dispatched to a technician. A multipoint inspection was performed, along with all the tests related to the check engine light; which was a timing error.  After the MPI and the tests were completed, we found a few things wrong with Charlie’s car. His Altima needed an oil change service, a battery, rear brakes, an air filter, the cabin filter had a mouse nest in it and the car needed an intake timing control sensor, not a timing chain. This engine has two intake control solenoids. One was supposedly replaced by the other shop. So, did this car have two bad sensors? Or was the wrong sensor replaced by mistake? 

When my service advisor called Charlie to tell him the good news, he was silent for a moment.  He was shocked that the car didn’t need a timing chain. He authorized the solenoid replacement, the oil change and replacing the mouse-infested cabin filter. He declined the other work.  

I purposely did the follow-up call with Charlie a few days later.  He was happy to hear from me and told me that car hadn’t run this good in years. I had to needle him a bit, “So Charlie, are we really expensive? We saved you a ton of money by doing the tests first and not just replacing the chain.” He said, “Ok Joe, I get it, I really do this time.” 

During our conversation, Charlie did confess that he didn’t go to another shop, but actually went to that all-knowing, all-powerful place on the internet known as Google. It was Charlie that replaced the solenoid, not realizing there were two, and not knowing how to properly test the system either.  

When I asked Charlie why he didn’t let us replace the battery, air filter and the rear brakes, he replied, “Joe, come on, I can do that work myself, and besides, you guys are expensive.”

Sometimes you win the battle, but it’s hard to win the war with some customers. 

 

This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on October 1st, 2019

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    • By carmcapriotto
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nBtoP83XYE
      Charlene Parlett, AMAM, CEC, ATI Executive Coach
      Charlene is an Executive Coach at ATI, is a former shop owner, and has been a coach for 6 years. Charlene helps clients find the right solutions to their challenges and encourages them to make the changes that result in having the life they dreamed about when they got into business ownership. Find Charlene's previous episodes HERE
      Maylan Newton from ESI – Educational Seminars Institute is a business coach, trainer and industry speaker. Maylan is no stranger to the podcast having paid it forward many times. He is a much sought our speaker at industry events in the US. Find Maylan’s previous episodes HERE.
      “He is ‘just a car guy’ with lots of knowledge and is brave enough to talk about it”. Maylan’s purpose is to educate leaders to be a better owner or service writer.
      Kevin Vaught, Elite Worldwide Business Development Coach, former multi-shop owner. Find Kevin's previous episodes HERE
      Key Talking Points
      Developing customer experience- the customer is more willing to pay more if the experience meets the criteria to warrant the price. Customer service is different than the experience. Big things are expected (fix the car and have some complimentary amenities), what about the little things (using first name basis, water bottles with logo in the cup holder when ready). You need to have the entire team involved. Treating internal (employees) and external (customers) with high value. You don’t need money to be kind and nice to others. How does the building look? What is the smell when walking in? How are employees dressed? Do they have nametags? When organizations were asked to rate their quality of Customer Experience, 80% believe they are delivering a superior experience. This is compared to only 8% of customers who believe they are receiving a great Customer Experience  GLUE- giving little unexpected extras    Number one priority is to treat customers like kings and queens- they are the most important person that day.  Relationship business- want customers to keep coming back the rest of their lives, they are not an interruption in your day You’re being compared to a customer’s last great experience (inside and outside the industry). What is a good experience for them? Ask them! Technical knowledge means nothing to customers- they don’t know and want to know when the car will be done. Technology won't replace the experience a customer gets, it is a tool.  Overpromise and under deliver- customers remember that more than the price of services What’s your favorite restaurant? Is it based on price or comfort and service? Every customer will talk about a good or bad experience to others You make sales with conversation, not email or texts Don’t chase money, money will follow with exceptional service “We don’t fix cars, we take care of people” Raise your standards and communicate them to your team, doesn’t happen overnight. Have a plan and procedure until it is engrained. Make everyone accountable with clear expectations. A special thanks to Charlene Parlett, Maylan Newton and Kevin Vaught for their contribution to the aftermarket. Books Page HERE Listen to all Remarkable Results Radio, For The Record and Town Hall Academy episodes. Facebook   Twitter  LinkedIn   Instagram  Youtube   Email  
      Mobile Listening APP’s HERE
      Join the Ecosystem – Subscribe to the INSIDER NEWSLETTER HERE.
      Buy Carm a Cup of Coffee 

      This episode is brought to you by Shop-Ware Shop Management. It’s time to run your business at its fullest potential with the industry’s leading technology. Shop-Ware Shop Management will increase your efficiency with lightning-fast workflows, help your staff capture more sales every day, and create very happy customers who promote your business. Shops running Shop-Ware have More Time and generate More Profit—join them! Schedule a free live demonstration and find out how 30 minutes can transform your shop at getshopware.com

      This episode is brought to you by Shop Marketing Pros. Your guides are Kim and Brian Walker with a rich history as shop owners and industry veterans. When someone searches for a shop, who are they finding? Your competitors? It should be you! The good people over at Shop Marketing Pros know how to drive website traffic and make Google work for you! www.shopmarketingpros.com
      Click to go to the Podcast on Remarkable Results Radio
    • By carmcapriotto
      Bill Haas, AAM, is the owner of Haas performance consulting LLC, with 40 years of experience in the automotive service and repair industry. Clients have access to Bill’s solution-based focus, expertise, unique perspectives and in-depth knowledge of the industry.
      Bill began his career working part-time at a full-service gasoline station in Appleton, Wisconsin. His career includes time as a technician, shop owner, technical trainer and on the staff of the automotive industry’s oldest and largest association representing automotive service and collision repair businesses. While at the association Bill had the opportunity to work with all segments of the industry.
      His knowledge of the industry has been shared on many occasions as he has been invited to speak at numerous industry events as well as providing testimony at hearings of the US Congress and several state legislatures on important legislation and regulation affecting the automotive industry.
      Bill received the Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) credential from the automotive management institute in 1996 and has been a member of the automotive management institute’s faculty since 2002.
      Bill is also the business manager for NACAT, the North American Council of Automotive Teachers. His services include business management seminar development and delivery, keynote presentations, business consulting, performance coaching, and strategic planning facilitation. Listen to Bill’s previous episodes HERE.
      Vic Tarasik is currently the Major Accounts Director with RLO Training. Public speaking, business management, finance, and leadership skills are some talents he acquired as a service professional that made this position perfect for him. He was a member of RLO Training’s Bottom-Line Impact Group and was twice awarded the Member Excellence Award for being the top shop in his group.
      Vic took an interest in all things mechanical at a young age. He worked on a variety of vehicles for friends and family. His interests grew into racing at local drag strips driving his 55 Chevy, which he still owns.
      In 1986, he returned to his roots and launched Vic’s Precision Automotive from his two-car garage. The heart of Vic’s Precision Automotive was galvanized for Vic as a boy; he watched his single mom struggle with service providers over the years. When he opened his shop, he was determined to make it a place where female customers felt comfortable. Listen to Vic’s previous episodes HERE.
      Cecil Bullard is President of the Institute for Automotive Business Excellence. He is a trainer and business coach in the automotive aftermarket working closely with service professionals.
      Previous episodes featuring or mentioning Cecil, click HERE.
      Institute for Automotive Business Excellence website.
      Bob Greenwood, AMAM (Accredited Master Automotive Manager) is President and C.E.O. of Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. (AAEC). AAEC is a company focused on providing Business Management Resources and Development for the Independent Sector of the aftermarket industry. AAEC content and technology is recognized as part of the curriculum of the Fixed Operations Diploma and the Aftermarket Degree courses taken at the Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian College located in Barrie Ontario Canada. This school is the leader and only college in Canada that offers an automotive business education. AAEC is also recognized by the Automotive Management Institute (AMI), located in North Richland Hills, Texas USA, allowing 80 credits for successful completion of the AAEC E-Learning portion of the site towards the 120 credits required to obtain the reputable Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation.
      Bob has over 40 years of Business Management experience within the Independent sector of the automotive aftermarket industry in North America, consulting Independent retail shops on all facets of their business operations. His 18 years of running his own local consulting and accounting firm in Ottawa, Ontario Canada created some of the most productive and financially successful entrepreneurs within the Independent sector today.
      Bob is one of 150 Worldwide AMI approved instructors. He has created Business Management development courses for aftermarket shop employers/managers, Jobbers and Jobber Sales representatives which are recognized as being the most comprehensive, industry-specific courses of their kind in North America. His courses address the creation of measurable bottom-line profitability and not just developing activity to keep busy, by covering the very detailed nuts and bolts issues that are required to be clearly understood by every level of the industry if an independent shop is going to financially prosper and enjoy a professional future. Bob’s previous episodes are HERE.
      Link to Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. (AAEC) HERE.
      Key Talking Points
      Professionalism- How do you answer the phone? How do you interact with customers? What is the image of the business? How do your technicians look? What does the shop look like from the front? There needs to be a process for everything. Do we see ourselves as professionals and on the same level as doctors/lawyers? Starts with the owner and leads to the industry as a whole. If you don’t have a professional shop how do you expect someone to want to come to work for you? Why arent the best technicians working in your shop? Why are people leaving the industry? Why is the average technician’s pay still only 50K?  85% of the industry isn’t paying attention, not thriving and not being successful  You don’t need to be cheap to be busy and fill shop- a busy shop often isn't a profitable shop 2nd largest investment for customers is their vehicle - duty and responsibility to give them choice for repairs. We provide transportation and safety.  Labor rates should reflect your competency and based on profit strategy  Culture of business- strive for a career mindset instead of job mindset culture, employees want to be a part of business and move it forward Solution? Professional association to abide by, standards, certification process to open a shop? What can you do right now? Define your target customer. Market to them and learn how to say no to the others Raise your prices now not later- stop having the fear that your customers won’t pay higher prices. Not everyone can afford to be your customer and that’s okay. $10 increase you can afford to lose 25% of clients and still make more. Don’t look at saving money to be profitable  Pay increase for employees- staff should know how revenue works, expenses etc. Net profit isn’t a dirty word. Need to be profitable on the bottom line to increase pay. Be successful as a team. Increased pay could be in form of vacation days, 401K, incentives, benefits. A special thanks to Bill Haas, Vic Tarasik, Cecil Bullard and Bob Greenwood for their contribution to the aftermarket. Books Page HERE Listen to all Remarkable Results Radio, For The Record and Town Hall Academy episodes. Facebook   Twitter  LinkedIn   Instagram  Youtube   Email  
      Mobile Listening APP’s HERE
      Join the Ecosystem – Subscribe to the INSIDER NEWSLETTER HERE.
      Buy Carm a Cup of Coffee 

      This episode is brought to you by Shop-Ware Shop Management. It’s time to run your business at its fullest potential with the industry’s leading technology. Shop-Ware Shop Management will increase your efficiency with lightning-fast workflows, help your staff capture more sales every day, and create very happy customers who promote your business. Shops running Shop-Ware have More Time and generate More Profit—join them! Schedule a free live demonstration and find out how 30 minutes can transform your shop at getshopware.com

      This episode is brought to you by Shop Marketing Pros. Your guides are Kim and Brian Walker with a rich history as shop owners and industry veterans. When someone searches for a shop, who are they finding? Your competitors? It should be you! The good people over at Shop Marketing Pros know how to drive website traffic and make Google work for you! www.shopmarketingpros.com
      Click to go to the Podcast on Remarkable Results Radio
    • By Joe Marconi
      It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since COVID-19 hit.  And for many businesses, and repair shops, it's been a challenge.  While many areas around the country have not seen a downturn, there are other areas that have been harshly impacted.
      Areas such as mine have seen a decline in miles driven per customer of up to 50% or more.  Just consider working from home, the drastic decline of going out to dine and other activities, a decrease in after-school activities, a decease in youth sports, buying online and every other action that has become the norm, and it adds up to a negative impact for so many shops.
      NOW, you know ME.  I always put a positive spin on everything.  At this too shall pass. COVID-19 will be behind us and we need to prepare for great times ahead.  
      I urge everyone to focus on people: Your family, your employees, your customers, and the community.
      With regard to your customers, they will remember you and their experience long after the water pump or mass air filter you replaced in their car.  
      If you are having a decline in sales, here a few tips:  Establish your new goals, look at your expenses, reevaluate your breakeven, make sure your labor and part margins are in line.  BUT, never forget that your most important strategy is the culture of your business. 
      Lastly, cherish every minute with family.  This Crisis has brought Clarity. And let's never forget the things that money cannot buy. 
       
    • By bantar
      I received an email today from a Consumer stating "Your price is too high, so hell with you sir!" in response a marketing email inviting him back for his next service.   My initial reaction was uh-oh, quickly followed by "Why am I not hearing more pricing complaints?".   This is quite interesting as we were in a discussion last week, talking about our prices being too low.   We are priced competitively in the market, but with a higher service level, likely, we should be able to earn more with a higher pricing.
      I remember reading somewhere that if you don't have enough complaints of your price is too high, then you are priced too low.    There is a balance in pricing.   On one hand, we have price leaders nearby (, with prices so low that they would go broke quickly if they were honest) that will rob the price shoppers blind when they visit as well as other reputable shops with various pricing levels.   
      I operate a combo lube and repair shop.     My repair labor rate is a premium to the area and we have talented technicians that rate this premium.    I'm at a small premium on the Lube, but believe it should be higher and .    
      After having a chuckle on today's email, I figured it would make for a good conversation.   What is the right Price-is-too-high-complaint rate?  1% 5% 10%?     We might get a 0.5-0.3% abandon rate at the counter over pricing.  I'm sure that there is a silent minority that just doesn't come back, yet makes no noise.
    • By carmcapriotto
      How to Have a Four Day Work Week with Eric Henley [RR 627]
      Eric Henley, owner of H-Teck Auto Care in Gray, TN, is 4th generation of mechanical repair. He received an associate's degree in Auto Service Technology and spent over 15 years at a Honda dealership. Eric started H-Teck Auto Care in 2006 with just him, his dad and his wife. Going on over 15 years in business he now has a 6 bay shop.
      4 generations in the automotive industryGrandfather was a blacksmith and father used to bring home cars to be fixed up. Eric grew up fixing bicycles, lawnmowers and cars.  Received an associates degree in Auto Service Technology Spent 15 years in dealerships- income can go down as skill level goes up (more skilled jobs often wouldn’t pay as much) Hiring new techniciansUses Indeed and Facebook Marketplace but the best results come from word of mouth and referrals from existing employees Current prospect is 21 year old Skills USA graduate  Current tenured technicians - 15 years, 11 years, 3 years Food Friday’sEither grill or go out to eat every Friday- have employee meeting over a meal All employees and Eric discuss any issues, improvements, ideas, areas needed for training, or tools needed. Open dialogue and non-formal Eric gives his employees the opportunity for responsibilities in the business- currently working on updating SOP’s with more DVI usage Shop is open 5 days a week with weekends offEric is in the shop 4 days a week because he trusts his employees- they are good people able to follow the SOP’s in place and make day to day decisions Employees will know if you don’t trust them- creates “neediness” for everything  Gives his employees monthly expenditures they can use for customers in need Spends extra time in the community and with his family He is very involved in his employee's lives and is flexible with work schedules based on their family schedules What makes a great service advisor?Excellent people skills and communication skills- enjoy talking to people Can think quickly on their feet, a warm personality, patient and good listener Similar to a good waitress/waiter- there when you need them, listen to what you need, then go on to the next table.  Both of Eric’s service advisors are in ongoing training Best service advisor trainers- previous service advisor, or previous technician with good people skills, or having parts experience TrainingRequires minimum 30 hours per year of training  Utilized online training a lot last year during COVID shutdowns RRR 588 with Jim Fleischman and Matt Manzone- Dealership tech now works for an independent How to Have a Four Day Work Week with Eric Henley [RR 627]
      Thanks to Eric Henley for his contribution to the aftermarket’s premier podcast. Link to the ‘BOOKS‘ page, highlighting all books discussed in the podcast library HERE. Leaders are readers. Listen for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spreaker, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Podchaser, and many more. Mobile Listening APP's HERE Find every podcast episode HERE. Every episode is segmented by Series HERE. Key Word Search HERE. Be socially involved and in touch with the show:
      Facebook   Twitter  LinkedIn   Instagram  Youtube   Email  
      Join the Ecosystem - Subscribe to the INSIDER NEWSLETTER HERE.
      Buy me a coffee
      NAPA Autotech Training helps your technicians keep their skills sharp and their NAPA Know How up to date. It’s the highest quality technical training that covers almost every vehicle system and every make and model. NAPA Autotech is presented by experienced instructors who are ASE master certified technicians. Even after a class is over, techs can access course information online with ClassPass. So when questions come up later they can get the answers. AutoCare Center owners who have taken advantage of Autotech Training say that well-trained technicians are helping to increase their shop’s repair capability and raise bay productivity. That results in fewer comebacks, more satisfied shop customers, and reduced technician turnover.
      Learn more about NAPA AutoCare and the benefits of being part of the NAPA family by visiting www.NAPAAutoCare.com.
      Click to go to the Podcast on Remarkable Results Radio


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    • By Joe Marconi
      There’s a lot of talk these days about the effect Amazon is having on businesses. Even Google has taken a hit. More and more people simply go straight to Amazon, instead of using Google’s search engine when looking for an item or product. Once-dominant brick and mortar stores are now ramping up to compete with Amazon’s online ordering service. Just look what Amazon did to the book industry. There is no doubt that Amazon has changed the way the typical consumer buys and searches for just about anything. 
      But, can Amazon ever really become a major competitor with us; the independent repair shop? My conclusion is no. Let me tell you why.
      It was the Saturday before Christmas, roughly 12 years ago. A man walked in my shop, visibly upset and holding an old Lionel train transformer. I asked him if I could help him, and he replied, “I was wondering if you could check out this transformer. This transformer has been in my family for over 50 years. Each year the family gets together to decorate the Christmas tree and set up the Lionel Trains. It’s a tradition we started a long time ago.” 
      I stood before him a little confused, not really knowing what to say. Finally I replied, “Sir, I repair cars, not toy train transformers.” Getting more upset, he said, “Toy train transformer? This is a rare, vintage Lionel Duel Transformer, Type ZW!” I replied back, “OK; no promises. Let me take a look”
      I set the transformer on the back bench and plugged the cord it into an outlet. The man frantically said, “See, there’s no light; it’s not working!” I turned the transformer over, and took the screws out to disassemble it. The man watched me as if I were a surgeon operating on his child. I poked around a bit and inspected the cord leading inside. I could clearly see a break in the wire. I cut the wire, stripped it back, attached the wire back to the terminals and reassembled the transformer. I plugged it in and the power light came on. “It working! It’s working!” the man said. He thanked me over and over and asked me what he owed me, and I told him, “It’s Christmas; just become my customer.” And he did. 
      Another time, a young woman in her early twenties and her father came to me with an unusual problem. I could see that the daughter was crying and the father was trying to console her. The daughter told me that she was recently engaged. As she was driving this morning, her friend reached over and tried to take off the ring. As she pulled her hand back, the ring came off and flew across the top of the dashboard and disappeared. The father said, “Joe, could it have gone down the defroster vents?” I said, “It’s possible, but if you didn’t see where it went, it’s going to be a big job to find it.” The girl began to cry again and said, “Please, can you get the ring back?” I looked at her and said, “Sure, it will take time. It’s almost the end of the day. Let me clear up a few things and I’ll get to it.”
      About an hour later, I brought the car in and begin taking apart the dash. The father and daughter stood there watching me as I carefully took apart the dash, piece by piece. After 40 minutes I had just about every piece of the dashboard apart, and no ring. I climbed out from under the dash to take a break and asked the daughter, “Are you sure the ring landed on top of the dash and disappeared?” She replied, “Yes, I’m sure. It has to be there. It must!” 
      I went back to work, removing more parts of the dash. I finally got down to the lower center of the dash where the ducts split off and go to the floor vents. As I removed the left side floor vent, I heard a rattling sound. I carefully picked it up, turned it over and out came the ring! The daughter burst into tears and laughter and gave me a big hug. The father told me, “Joe, I will never forget this—never.”
      These two stories are true. And I’ll bet a year’s pay that you have similar stories. Each day, we put our hearts and souls into helping people. We create a customer experience that sets us apart from most other businesses. We go above and beyond what’s expected of us, and we succeed. 
      Let me ask you; could the “Amazon effect” ever compete with you? The only effect you should focus on is the effect you have on your customers and your community. This will always be your competitive advantage. Use it wisely. 
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on July 1st, 2019


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    • By Joe Marconi
      A few years ago, some friends and I were having dinner at a local restaurant. There were six of us enjoying the food and having a great time. A few minutes after our waiter served us our coffee and dessert, the owner of the restaurant walked over to us, introduced himself and said, “I have people waiting for this table; how much longer do you think you’ll be?” Shocked by his comment, I hesitated for a second, looked up at him and said, “No worries, we’re done.” With just a few simple words, the owner of the restaurant wiped out the pleasant experience we were all having.
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      As a business owner, I fully understand what each table means in terms of profit. The tables at a restaurant are no different than the service bays in our business. The more people you can process through the restaurant, the more profitable the restaurant is. The more cars we can process through our service bays, the more profitable we are.
      While I don’t fault the owner of the restaurant for recognizing the need to be profitable, I do fault the owner for not understanding a basic rule in achieving success in business. And that is: You build a business one customer at a time and by developing strong, long-term relationships with those customers. And to maintain that success, a business must continuously cultivate those relationships.
      The owner of this restaurant didn’t get it. All of us had dined at his establishment before. The owner didn’t see us as an opportunity to strengthen the relationships. He saw the opposite. By asking for our table, he put the emphasis on his next sale and eliminated any chance of us returning again. Losing customers, and not understanding why, is the kiss of death for any small business.
      What the owner determined important was profit per table, per person. The process to get people fed and done became the primary objective, when it should have been ensuring its customers were enjoying a nice meal and having a great time. It was a mistake that eventually led to his failure. Never think that customer quantity ever outweighs the quality of the customer experience. Making a memorable experience is the essence of great customer service.
      If we dig a little deeper, we find another mistake made by the restaurant owner: believing that the customer experience was over when the meal was over. The meal was prepared, it was served and we consumed it. Then, at some point during the end of that process, we became an obstacle to his next sale. He failed to comprehend that the sale is not over when the meal is over, and that everything that occurs right up to the moment when a customer drives away from his parking lot will have an influence on whether that customer will return in the future.
      The lesson for us is simple: Never lose sight of the importance of creating a customer. Establish a culture in your company that cultivates long-term relationships. Build a process that always strives for world-class customer service during the entire customer experience—and especially at car delivery.
      Never think that when the technician completes the repair, your job is done. The customer experience continues right up until the time the customer is picking up their car. The time you spend with the customer after the repair is done is as important as making the sale.
      Value each customer. Work on those relationships. Don’t worry about short term profit gain. Remember: building long-term relationships, builds long-term profit.
      By the way, that restaurant has recently opened up again. My friends and I went there for dinner last Friday night. We noticed that the new owner was walking around greeting everyone. He eventually made his way to our table, introduced himself and said, “Can I get anyone anything? It’s great to see you here tonight and hope to see you again soon. Thank you.”
      Now, you tell me: Do you think we’ll go back?
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on February 1st, 2019


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    • By Joe Marconi
      My son was an accomplished wrestler in high school, competing in the New York State Championships. He continued competing during his college years. At a major tournament, in which my son was ranked No. 1, the coached worried about his first match. In tournaments, the No. 1 ranked wrestler competes against the bottom-ranked wrestler in the first round. When I asked the coach why he worried about the bottom-ranked opponent, the coach replied, “Tough competition keeps you sharp. Weaker competition makes you complacent.” 
      In business, as in sports, complacency occurs when you fail to recognize the strengths of your competition—even if the competition is considered weaker than you. Complacency is caused by many reasons. It could be the result of being successful, which gives you a false sense of security that the good days will continue forever. Or, it could be that the business owner is so entrenched in the day-to-day operations that he fails to recognize the world around him. Complacency also lowers your drive and your focus. It spreads to your employees. Eventually, this will have a detrimental effect on your business. 
      However, loss of business due to complacency doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow, painful death. One day you realize that your car counts are down, your customer base is dwindling and your new customer acquisition is declining too.
      Today, consumers have choice and competition is fierce. Every segment of the auto repair industry wants a piece of the service and repair pie. You need to take a long hard look at your competition, analyze it and study it. Then build a strategy around what you bring to the marketplace that will set you apart from the rest. 
      One thing to keep in mind: In the business world, competition is everywhere. And it’s not just other repair shops, dealerships or the tire store down the road. Your business is being judged and compared to by every experience the consumer encounters. In other words, if your customer had an amazing experience at a local restaurant, your business will be judged against that experience, too. But the question is: How should you compete? 
      In his book The Purple Cow, author Seth Godin makes the point that your business needs to be so remarkable, people will stop in their tracks to learn more about you. To make the cow comparison: Cows are essentially boring. They really don’t stand out. But, if you’re driving down a road and see a purple cow in a field, you’ll more than likely stop your car to take a closer look. Now ask yourself: Is your business boring? Does it have the look and feel as every other repair shop in town? What can you do to make your business so remarkable, so different, that people will stop in their tracks and take notice? This is a powerful marketing strategy. 
      No matter how successful your business may be, it’s wise to look at all prominent businesses in your area. Find out who they are, how they market themselves and what makes them stand out. Then, create a strategy that differentiates your business from the rest. By the way, never compete with another business by copying what it does or by the benefits it offers. Copying the competition is what many businesses do, and it’s a mistake. Studying the competition is more about learning what they do, and then finding out what makes you different. What can your business bring to the marketplace that will make people take notice? Think about the company Harley Davidson. When you drive a Harley Davidson, you drive a Harley. It’s not a motorcycle—it’s a Harley. Harley Davidson is a brand so strong, people will actually tattoo the Harley logo on their bodies. Consider Starbucks. People don’t say, “I’m going to get a cup of coffee.” They say, “I’m going to get a Starbucks.” These two companies have a unique brand identity. They stand out among the rest. 
      Competition is a good thing. It makes you stronger. It makes the entire business world better. It forces you to think about yourself and your brand. And by improving your brand, the customer benefits also improve, which, in turn, makes your business more successful. Never fear competition; rather, you should embrace it. Learn from it. But, remember, look for ways to set you apart from other businesses. 
      One last thing: Don’t focus on what you do. We all essentially do the same thing—oil services, brake work, suspension, tires and more. Think about why you are in business. It’s your culture. Think about what makes you special and communicate that to your customers and potential customers. Make that special something your purple cow. 
      By the way, my son took first place in that tournament. Although every match was a challenge, the two toughest matches were the final round and (you guessed it) his first match against a weaker opponent.
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on July 31st, 2019


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    • By Joe Marconi
      A few years back, my service advisor, Tony, was trying to sell a customer a new battery. Let’s call this customer Ed Jones. Here’s how the conversation unfolded; “Mr. Jones, my technician completed our 21-point inspection on your vehicle and everything checks out fine. However, I do want to discuss the battery. Your battery was tested with our Midtronics digital battery diagnostic tool, which is a very accurate piece of equipment. Your battery is rated at 575 cold cranking amps, and your battery tested at 300.  Would you like me to replace the battery today?” Ed Jones looked at Tony, and three seconds later said, “Thank you for the information. Let me think about it.”
      I know Ed very well. The car we were servicing that day was his daughter’s car, who was home from college for the Christmas holiday. Ed’s daughter is in her first year at Plattsburgh University in upstate New York, which is about a five hour drive and near the Canadian border.  
      I could see the frustration on Tony’s face, so I gave him a little advice; “Tony, ask Mr. Jones who drives the car. After he answers you, ask him what the car is used for. Listen to his answers and then use that information to sell safety and peace of mind, not a battery.”
      Five minutes later, Tony reported back to me excited and amazed; “Joe, great advice!  He authorized the battery! I guess you knew he would buy the battery with the right questions?” I replied, “You were trying to sell Ed Jones a battery by pointing out the technical process we use to determine the health of the battery. What you need to do is reach the customer on an emotional level. The questions I recommended you ask made him realize that it’s the welfare of his daughter he was really buying, not a battery.” 
      Now, let’s clarify something. Tony didn’t say anything wrong with his sales presentation. But he got the process backwards. He was leading with logic. If you’re trying to sell something by using logic alone, you are going to struggle. People make buying decisions based on emotions. To make a sale, you need to connect with the part of the brain where emotions reside, and then back it up with logic.   
      Bombarding the customer first with facts and features tends to confuse the brain as it tries to make sense out what you are saying. That can be difficult because the technical information is usually not fully understood by the customer and the confusion usually results in the customer saying, “No.”  
      Let’s review the conversation when Tony asked the right questions; “Mr. Jones, who drives this car?” Ed replied, “My Daughter.” Tony continued, “And what does she use the car for?”  Ed replied, “She uses it to go college at Plattsburgh. She’s home for the holidays and goes back to school on Monday.” At that point, Tony realized why I urged him to ask those questions, and continued with, “So, your daughter drives this car back to college, and leaves on Monday. She goes to Plattsburgh, which is near the Canadian border.  Mr. Jones, it’s wintertime and that’s a long, lonely drive. Her battery tested weak and may fail without warning. For peace of mind and your daughter’s safety, wouldn’t it be in her best interest to replace the battery before she leaves?” Ed now makes the emotional decision, “Yes.” 
      Here’s the bottom line. First, know your customer. Build rapport during the write up process and find out all the details of why the car was brought in for service. Second, tone down the technical side of what you do. That’s not to say it’s not important. But, before you give the technical facts, reach your client on an emotional level. Ask questions to find out as much as you can about the customer, and then direct the conversation to the reasons why what you are trying to sell will benefit the well-being of the customer and/or the customer’s family.  
      Remember, decisions are easier to make when it has meaning to them or a family member. In Ed’s case, not replacing the battery would have been unsettling to him. Tony’s recommendation to replace the battery is perceived as the right decision because it promotes the safety and well-being of his daughter.
      Humans are driven by feelings and make emotional decisions, then justify it with logic. Next time you are trying to sell anything to a customer, ask yourself, “Why should the customer buy what I am trying to sell?” The answer may surprise you. 
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on November 1st, 2019


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    • By Joe Marconi
      Roughly a month ago, I went to lunch with a good friend of mine. He works for the YMCA, so we discussed what the YMCA does to attract new members. A few years ago, my friend and his team realized that while they were good at attracting new members each year, they had little to no retention. It was a constant battle to bring in new members to fill the void of lost members.
      The YMCA realized that it’s easier and less expensive to keep existing members, than to go out and find new ones. They created a new marketing strategy with a focus on keeping existing members. The plan was simple: create an amazing experience for their members and offer new programs to these existing members. The plan worked. Member retention improved. What worked for the YMCA will also work for your business.
      Before you spend a dime on advertising, you need to understand one crucial component of your business; the customer experience. Without a great customer experience that gives your existing customers a compelling reason to return, you’re simply wasting your money on advertising.
      Advertising is often aimed at new-customer acquisition. There is nothing wrong with this. Every business loses clientele each year for a number of reasons, and we need to get our name out to our community about who we are and what we do in order to attract new consumers. But, to rely on new customer acquisition alone without a plan to keep existing customers is not a strategy for long-term, sustained growth.
      Every marketing plan starts with looking at your entire operation and how it relates to the customer experience. Are you doing all you can to create an amazing experience that builds solid relationships? If not, you will be in the same position the YMCA was: using advertising to fill the void of lost customers.
      While there are many aspects of the customer experience, let’s focus today on the four essential areas: The customer write-up, the sales process, the car delivery and the follow-up. Each of these touch points must be executed with one thing in mind: create an experience so amazing that the customer will have a compelling reason to return your shop again.
      Customer write-up starts the process. It’s where you begin the relationship or continue to preserve it. It must be performed as if you are welcoming a guest into your home. The sales process must communicate value and benefits to the customer. This gives the customer peace of mind, reduces anxiety and buyer’s remorse. The car delivery is your chance to leave a lasting positive impression of you and your company. It should not be a transaction, but instead the opportunity to resell the job, you and your company. The car delivery should not be rushed. Take the time to review the invoice, ask the customer if they have any questions. Let every customer know how important they are and how much you value his or her confidence and trust in you and your company. The follow-up continues the customer experience. This is where you reach out to the customer with a phone call, email, or thank-you card. It helps with customer retention by making another positive impression in the mind of the customer.
      Getting back to car delivery: Make sure you review all future service recommendations and let the customer know that they will receive a service reminder. But don’t rely on a postcard or email alone to bring back customers. Think about this: If you had a bad experience at a restaurant, no offer or ad is going to get you back there—only an amazing experience will. The same holds true for your business.
      By the way, an amazing customer experience is created by the people in your company. Sure, you need to have a clean, well kept facility with nice amenities. But it’s the people in your company that make the difference. Billion dollar stadiums don’t win championships—it’s the quality of the players on the field that win championships. Everyone in your company is part of your marketing plan. A simple smile and hello from a technician when a customer walks past the bays can do more for your business than any ad can.
      Let me leave you with this thought: Customers will not remember the mass airflow sensor you installed or the exhaust leak you repaired. But they will remember their experience. A positive experience is lasting in the mind of the consumer. It’s the most powerful marketing tool you have—and it’s virtually free.
       
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 1st, 2018


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