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By Jonathan Ganther
Hey guys. I'm new to the forum and was looking for this subject but couldn't find it. Sorry If I'm posted something that's already been discussed. I own a brake shop in Austin, TX. We do anywhere from 10-20 brake jobs a day. We only do brakes so I don't know how much full service auto shops deal with this problem but... Customers are constantly calling in claiming they've bought the best parts or they want to provide their own parts because they've done research and know what is best. This drives me crazy. First of all they don't know whats best. Then after being told no they get offended and act like tons of shops allow this. What is the best way to handle these customers? Just send them away? I'll quote them a price using our parts and they act as though its a rip off. What shops are doing this for their customers? I feel like I'm letting jobs get away from me. Any experience with this?
Breaker, Breaker… In my many years of repairing cars I’ve helped out a countless number of other shops with their electrical problems. Some shops I would see a few times a month, and others only once in awhile. This was years before the internet was around, and cell phones were only a fad and way to expensive to have. So, most everything was done by a land line or over the CB radio. Back in the mid 80’s and 90’s I had one shop that I talked with nearly every day. Great guys, but not so great as mechanics. The owners name was Joe. His shop was small and seemed to be a place for wayward towed vehicles and obscure customers looking for dirt cheap repairs. His main business was his tow service, and the repair shop seemed to be there just to fill in the gaps on those slow days. One afternoon I got a call from Joe about a car his crew had given up on. They threw the parts cannon at it, but couldn’t get this car to come back to life. Joe was with tows, and needed the mechanics he had to drive the other tow trucks. This particular car had been in his shop for quite some time and I don't think the customer was too happy about it. So, to speed things up a bit, he dropped it off at my shop. “I’ll be on the road all day. I've got to get back out there. I've got tows lined up all day. If you get it going, could ya run it back to my shop,” Joe said, as he made a dash for his tow truck. “No problem Joe, I’ll get right on it,” I said, just as he drove off. The car was an 80’s GM. I could see all kinds of shiny new components under the hood, and could tell they put a lot of effort into swapping parts to find out what was going on. The symptom was; if you flipped the key to the crank position it would immediately start, but die just as quickly. The parts they changed were the predictable parts cannon fodder that the typical parts slapper would try. Tune-up parts, an IAC, TPS, MAP, ECM, etc… etc… all of which might, could, should’ve, probably, maybe, and of course, eventually with enough darts thrown at it, could have hit the target and fixed it. But it didn’t. I wasn’t about to go that route. Time for some real diagnostics and not just shoot from the hip. Why not start with the basics- fuel, air, and fire. Spark was good, timing looked good, and the intake had a good air pull. I gave it a shot of carb. cleaner, and as long as I kept spraying… it kept running. Ok, time to check the fuel pressure. Interesting... there was pressure. Hmmm, now what to do? The next obvious thing (to me) was to check fuel volume. I disconnected a fuel line and gave the key a flick into start. The fuel shot out into the drainage bucket, but then trickled to a stop. I did it a second time. Not as much fuel made it out this time, but the scenario was basically the same. It was always a quick burst followed by a trickle. Maybe I should look at that gas gauge. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, the gauge is ready E. It had just enough in the tank to pressurize the fuel lines but not enough to keep it going. Might as well grab a gas can, and put some in the tank. I’ll try it again… vroom, vroom, vroom, alright! It’s running great! Looks to me as if the entire problem was that it was out of gas. However, with all the new parts they installed, I couldn’t be sure if this was the 'only' problem or an after affect of having the car in the shop so long while trying to solve another problem. It could have been any one of the other components (within reason) they changed that really 'did' need to be changed. Later that day I drove the car back to Joe’s shop. He wasn’t there, but his dispatcher was in the office sorting out tow tickets and monitoring the CB with the volume up full blast. In the background you could hear the CB chatter from all the area’s tow companies. About then I heard Joe’s voice over the CB, “Did Gonzo call yet? Need to check in on him, we need to get that car back to the owner.” “He just walked in Joe, over,” the dispatcher told him. “So what was wrong with it,” Joe asked between the squelch of the CB radio and all the other chatter from the other tow companies. The dispatcher turned to me and pointed at the mic. So, I told him . The dispatcher, with a stunned look on his face, said, “I can’t tell him that. He is going to be so pissed.” “I don’t think you should either. At least not until he gets back,” I said, while breaking into an ear to ear smile. The CB comes back to life with Joe’s voice again; “So what did he find out, over,” Joe's frustration was showing through as his voice barked out of the CB speaker. The dispatcher said to me, " Old Joe sounds pretty pissed." I don’t know whether it was the way his day was going or how much time and money he's spent on this car. Either way, he’s not going to like this answer. “Go ahead… tell him,” I said to the dispatcher, still sitting there hold the mic button, “He wants the answer, so let him have it.” “Alright, Joe, are ya ready for this, over?" the dispatcher said, then waited for a response from Joe. "Yea, go ahead, over." "It was out of gas.” A dead silence came over the CB. No chatter, nothing, not another sound for what seemed to be an eternity. Then, all hell broke loose. Tow drivers from all over the city were razing poor Joe. The CB was full of laughter and goof ball comments, but not a word from Joe. Poor Joe, you asked for it, and now you got it. “Tell Joe to stop by the shop, he can settle up with me then,” I said, while trying to hold back the laughter. As I walked out the door, the CB chatter could be heard all the way to the parking lot, and the comments were still flying. It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had for doing nothing more than putting gas in a car. When Joe came up to pay the bill I told him I had a little something for him. I handed him a little tiny gas can on a key chain. I figured it might be a good reminder for him to always check the basics before loading up the parts cannon again. After all these years I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about it, and I’ll bet he doesn’t tell too many people where he got that little gas can key chain from… but now, it wouldn't be so much on the CB, but over the internet.
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By Joe Marconi
We all have our favorite customers. You know who there are. They’re the ones that throw their keys on the service counter in the morning and say, “Do what you need to do and I’ll see you at 5 p.m.” They never question your price, they trust you and they keep coming back. But does that person define your true profile customer? The answer is probably yes. But it’s not the only criteria. It’s a little more complicated than that.
Defining your true profile customer starts with you. It starts with who you are, why you are in business and the culture of your company. By the way, determining your true profile customer has nothing to do with excluding certain people due to their income level. The young 23-year-old college graduate who sets aside part of her paycheck to shop at Whole Foods does so because she believes in the company and for what they stand. It’s not about what she “supposedly” can or cannot afford. She is Whole Foods’ profile customer because she aligns herself with that brand. And Whole Foods welcomes her with open arms.
Many of my profile customers endured tough economic times during the Great Recession of 2008. They lost their ability to pay for some of the things they previously could afford. What they didn’t lose was their loyalty to my company. So, what did we do? We helped them through that difficult time. We helped them manage their car care needs better, offering services that would save on fuel, reduce repair costs, and reduce breakdowns. We showed them how to squeeze every mile out of their tires and brakes. We took care of them and we still do to this day. We consider them family and we don’t turn our backs on family. One thing we didn’t do, and will never do, is compromise on price to get a job. That would not be fair to all my customers, my employees or the company.
With regard to pricing your services and repairs, it’s a delicate balance between being profitable and competitive. But I don’t know of any shop that prefers a customer walk away or sends someone to another shop because he or she cannot afford a particular price. A smart service advisor will give options, prioritize the work needed, and offer finance options.
If you’re a startup company, your doors are wide open to everyone. You need customers and car counts, and you need them right away. But as your business matures, you begin to realize that not everyone is your customer. And there’s nothing wrong with this realization. As you build your customer base, you begin to see that there are customers that respect the work you do, align themselves with your culture and appreciate what you do for them and for the community. They become your profile customers.
Let’s say you sponsor a youth baseball team in your area, help out at community events and involved with local fundraisers. You will become known as the business person that cares about the community and children. That’s making your business stand out among the rest. As you define who you are, you also attract those that want to do business with you and support your brand.
While I do recommend treating everyone the same, I don’t recommend trying to be everything to everyone. That’s not a sound marketing strategy—that’s a recipe for failure. Defining your customer and targeting your market does not isolate consumers. It actually increases market share. Here’s an important fact: In your geographical area, automotive shops basically do the same thing; they repair and service automobiles. So, how is a consumer going to choose you over another? You need to stand out. You need to be different. You need to build a brand culture and establish a marketing position that will make people take notice. By the way, every successful company, large and small, understands its true profile customer and creates a marketing plan on attracting them.
One last thing: When you build a business around your culture, you put the focus on your brand and the value you provide. This strategy is one of your pathways to success. When you combine value with culture, you will have an enduring and profitable company.
If you want to build a great company, ask yourself these questions: Why are you in business? What’s your life’s purpose? Your culture? Build a marketing strategy and a brand message around the answers to these questions. Not all people will take notice, but your profile customers will.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on August 3, 2018
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By Joe Marconi
I am writing this on my last day of vacation in California, spending time with family. It took me a few days to totally relax, but made it a point to not look at emails or call the office.
We all need downtime. I know there will be a ton of work to be done when I return, but I also know that the time away has recharged my batteries and I will be more productive.
Being away from business and spending time with family puts things into proper perspective. You realize that a lot of the things you stress over, are really not as important as you think.
Take time to enjoy life. We all know how quickly time passes us by. And remember, no one on their death bed ever said they wished they spent more time at work.
By Joe Marconi
The day to day operations of running a business can take its toll on anyone. To be a business owner means to address problem after problem and finding the right solutions. Sometimes the decisions we make will be the right ones, sometimes not. If we are not careful, this emotional roller coaster we call being in business, can make us focus too much on the negative, and not the positive things that happen in our lives.
With nearly 4 decades as a business owner, I can say with certainty that one of the basic building blocks of being successful in business is having the right team of people around you and getting yourself in the right frame of mind.
You need to find and hire great people. But once you have them, you need to do all you can to take care of them, train them and make them successful in order for you to be successful. Is it easy? No. But it is essential.
Most important; you need to treat each day as if it were a gift from the heavens and base your entire perspective from a position of strength and remaining positive. I know it’s not easy, but I can tell you, it works.