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slam em hard or....not

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I have been in this business for twenty years as a tech and as a service writer before i became an owner... and ive seen alot of shady things in the various shops ive worked at. and ive worked for alot of pushy managers who only cared about sales and numbers- not about the customers, their vehicles, or the integrity of the shop. this is one of many reasons i stay away from doing public work- a great deal of the motoring public has been conned, over charged, let down, sold un needed repairs, and been misdiagnosed to the point they naturally dont trust auto repair shops. and they can be quite nasty. Let me stress i am not grouping ALL SHOPS into these categories. I am talking about the chain stores mostly, the ones people feel they can trust - the ones with district managers that get bonuses on sales categories, the ones ran by people with a "sales" background, who wouldn't know a resonator from a converter. I have a great deal of animosity towards these places because of the way they do business, and the way they train their employees to write an estimate. Been there, done that- hated it.-


which gets me to my question - how many of us try to write up every little thing we see on a customers car and try to sell it based on a "mileage" condition- or just because it "looks" ready to fail. do you train your techs to "pick it apart" and write up every little thing they see, and your service writers to "push " people into buying. or should i say do you "allow" this to happen in your shop? as long as the repair is sold. do you check your invoices to be sure the techs and sw arent "padding" the ticket to increase their commission?

It has been my experience that customers are much happier spending 2-300 or 400 $$ with a shop every 4-6 months than coming in and walking out with a 800-1000$ or higher bill the first time they come to you, because the sw pushed them into buying NOW. i understand sometimes this is unavoidable in the case of a head gasket or a major repair, but the average customer seeking a few maintenance items or a simple brake job walks out feeling taken advantage of - especially when they DONT hear, feel, or sense their car acting any better, or even different, than before they took it to you.

Do we hire a sw based on his "sales" background or his "automotive" experience? 80% of my past experience has shown me that sales is the basis for hiring a sw- whether he sold washing machines or doorknobs - it does not matter- if he can sell he can write service and answer customers questions about thier cars. would you rather have a customer that spends 2-400$ with you every 4-6 months, or one that spends 800-1000 or more once? keep in mind that customer will tell 10 other people where he took his car and how he felt when he left, and those 10 people will also tell at least 2 others what they heard from your customer. so thats 30 people from 1 customer.


Sorry if this is long winded but i feel the need to vent a little.

It has been proven many times - people will spend MORE on a place of business that they feel comfortable dealing with, just for the piece of mind they get.

thanks for listening- if we as a group want to increase our bottom lines, we must also work on how we treat our customers, or, how we let our employees treat our customers. customer service should be followed through even into the estimate, not just at drop off and pickup. We must train them to use honesty and integrity to build our businesses , and the rest will follow. Give your techs business cards to put into their customers cars when they work on them, this will keep them accountable for their work, and it gives them incentive to take that extra step for quality knowing their name is on it and the customer will see it, and it gives the customer something to pass along to others they know who need repairs.

ok im done now. but there will be more on customer service to come. :blink:

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I can say for fact that UPS does repalce starters and alternators as part of reg maint, I cpntraced to them for a while as a sub mechanic. As for me I dont replace these components till they fail. My personal vehicle, 92 F-150 4.9L auto 2 wd, has 274k and never has had a fuel pump in either tank. Luckey, maybe. I have had 2 Chrysler T&C vans in the last week with failed pumps. One 01 and one 02 both over 120k, failed fuel pumps. At the rate you are recommending you would have replace these pumps 3 times. I dont see any real savings, even if ya figuerd in the tow and a days rental car. I do STRONGLY recommend timing belts, hoses, thermostats, and such. These are failures that can have catastrophic consequences.


my thoughts exactly - timing belts and reg. maint. items must be replaced periodically - thats a given

not sure i agree with drrphil on his philosophy for the average customer- ups i can understand wanting to be ahead of the game as they ship many time sensitive things- i would be curious how often your approach works vs. doesnt work DrPhil, and how exactly do you sell a starter that isnt bad to begin with ? common sense should ring in the customers head....uh....why?

no disrespect just curious

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Your post is great and brings up a things that go on in our industry but I think most industies have some type of shaddy thing go on but there are still the honest ones that survive. I have no problem letting a first time customer know that their vehicle needs services that are $800-1000 or $2000 of course in priority, but that is where you are developing a relationship with them. By that I mean, asking questions, and I mean a lot of questions. By asking them you are gaining trust and show that you care about the vehicles past and customers intentions with the vehicle. If I talk with a customer and he tells me he is only going to keep the vehicle 6 months to a year, I let them know what is needed now and if they plan on keeping the vehicle longer, here is what else is needed. The last thing I want is a customer who spends $200-300 every visit getting upset at me because they are spending this each time and us not letting them know what is expected. I have heard this too many times in the past, "why didn't you tell me or see this last time", and do like to want to here that again since we are the experts and pretty much know what vehicle are do for. Now dont get me wrong, I do not "hard" sell services, our position as professionals is to let them know what is needed and in order of importance, nothing else. Honesty and integrity is what is needed but you do not have to be shy about giving customers information. Isn't that the reason they are at your place? If it is there first time with you, thats is what there are looking for.



Not sure how you sell starters, alternators and fuel pumps every 30K but I belive that way out hand and is over selling. Do you replace your home light bulbs, funace and stove ignitors, dishwashers on a regular basis before they fail? Because they will all fail one time or another. I am totally into preventative maintenance but that seems a little out there. Of course we know which vehicles are subsepticle to certain failures but should we go in for a heart pacemaker for preventative future heart failure?


Anyway, this is an intersting post and would like to hear others on this subject.



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it has been my experience that it all depends on the type of customer you are dealing with - in regards to the 2-300$ every couple months - most times it is much less - lets say 1st visit - lof/rotate and balance/ serp belt/ rear brake adjust...next visit - lof air filter... next visit fuel filter plugs/wires and so on -


some customers realize maintenance is important and have no problem following the schedule and taking care of things that are wearing out - tensioners/pads/tires/shocks-struts etc. and some customers are so tight fisted they wont replace a wiper blade unless it is missing or scraping the windshield.

case in point - customer states clunking in the rear over bumps - tech finds struts are done and stabilizer link broke - you find your sw pushing hard with "scare tactics" and just plain badgering the customer to spend the money to fix it - we all know - and the customer most likely knows - this isnt as dangerous a condition as the sw is making it out to be .... how do you handle the sw? ignore it because his job is to sell and make the shop money ...(but at what cost?)....or tell him thats not how we do things around here and he needs to tone it down - this is the origional question i was getting at in my post.


to the customers who say "why didn't you see this last time -" hopefully the answer is "by looking at your previous inspection report ,it wasn't in this condition last time"

most customers dont buy for the same reasons -

1)no or not enough money

2)were just curious what the noise is and/or if its dangerous

3)think they can get it cheaper elsewhere or do it themselves


now - if the sw keeps coming down on the price to try and sell it - the customer knows you were priced too high to begin with -

next - if the sw keeps pushing and pushing - the customer feels uncomfortable because they've said no 3 times already and is beginning to wonder what this guys problem is..

last - if the sw does manage to push the cust. into buying - will that customer come back again or will they leave feeling like they just got bullied into buying something they didnt want to, and go someplace else next time. loosing future $$ for your shop -


whenever i meet someone new who doesnt know what i do, and the subject of cars comes up - i always listen to their complaints about the shops they have visited - some people are just plain nuts, and some have valid complaints about how they were treated - i try and remember those problems so i can maybe change how i handle that situation. most people have complaints about wrong diags and pushy sw's - combine those two together, and you have a MAJOR problem customer.

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Service advisor training is very important and that person must also adapt to your guidelines. Some of these advisors come from places where in order to make any money, they need to sell everything no matter what the costs. I completely agree with you on not using scare tactics, lowering prices or badgering is not tolerated and if you have one of those advisors, hopefully you can retrain them. If not, cut them.


Customers do not buy for 2 reasons, either the money or lack of trust and it is our job to fix the 2nd one. Hopefully there is more to it then just an inspection report for reasons to give customers why there are other items that are needed for each later visits. It has to our experience and knowledge as professionals to let them know on their first visit that they have other maintenance items coming up in so it eases the suprise at that time.


There are so many different opinions with services, that we can go on with this forever but as long as the customer is taken care of properly needs to be the final result. We have even our own technicians that believe when certain services are needed and should be done as much as we try to uniform them, it is still the SA to read and understand what is needed per shop guidelines and operations.



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so, if we all were to compare notes- what would be the one thing we could do that increase customer trust and get them to accept the estimate as written and the price on the bottom line...in other words how do you all gain your customers trust - im talking about new customers - the ones who return consistently are already yours per say. after all - if they didn't trust you, they wouldn't be back would they...as for my answer - i greet them - find out why they are coming in, ask them where they have been taking their vehicles before and what has been done to them , and WHY THEY ARENT RETURNING TO THEM. and simply let them talk..and talk and talk, most importantly ...i agree with everything they say. this gets them into the mode of " this guy thinks just like i do",,,,, people naturally trust others who they believe have the same thought pattern as they do. it works 80% of the time. it is however up to me and my staff to make sure each new customer gets top notch, friendly service. thats the main thing, and as they return again and again, we slowly start treating them like an old friend. almost like family so to speak.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
      At a recent industry event, a shop owner from the Midwest boasted about his flat-rate techs and insisted that this pay plan should be adopted by all shops across the country. When I informed him that in states like New York, you cannot pay flat-rate, he was shocked. “Then how do you motivate your techs” he asked me.
      I remember the day in 1986 when I hired the best technician who ever worked for me in my 41 years as an automotive shop owner. We’ll call him Hal. When Hal reviewed my pay plan for him, and the incentive bonus document, he stared at it for a minute, looked up, and said, “Joe, this looks good, but here’s what I want.” He then wrote on top of the document the weekly salary he wanted. It was a BIG number. He went on to say, “Joe, I need to take home a certain amount of money. I have a home, a wife, two kids, and my Harly Davidson. I will work hard and produce for you. I don’t need an incentive bonus to do my work.” And he did, for the next 30 years, until the day he retired.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, here’s mine. Money is a motivator, but not the only motivator, and not the best motivator either. We have all heard this scenario, “She quit ABC Auto Center, to get a job at XYZ Auto Repair, and she’s making less money now at XYZ!” We all know that people don’t leave companies, they leave the people they work for or work with.
      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
      Rather than looking for that elusive perfect pay plan, sit down with your technician. Find out what motivates them. What their goals are. Why do they get out of bed in the morning? When you tie their goals with your goals, you will have one powerful pay plan.
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