Quantcast
Jump to content


Gonzo

Article: Smoke Signals - - - What The Customer Is Telling You, May Not Be What They Really Are Saying....

Recommended Posts

 

Smoke Signals

I've been to numerous lectures, classes, and seminars on advanced automotive training. These classes not only show a technician the ins and outs on the latest systems, but also the technical skills needed to properly diagnose and repair today’s cars. I consider it a must for any diagnostic or line mechanic to attend these events. You’ll learn so much from them. But there is one side of the business that doesn't get any class time, (at least none that I've found.) and that’s how to deal with the complexities of what’s behind the steering wheel… the driver. That, I'm afraid, is something that only comes with experience. A lot of times the owner can be harder to diagnose than the car. So I pay attention to anything that might be of potential help in diagnosing the car, or that will help me figure out what angle the owner is up to.

Any given day at the shop I can find instances where reading the signals is just as important as performing the repairs. I've had all kinds of crazy smoke blown in my face after running a repair shop for so long. From a guy who wanted me to back date his invoice for two years ago. (Puff, puff… the smoke is in the air.) That way he could avoid paying any penalties for not getting the car tagged. Ha! Nope! Ain't happenin’! To a lady who searched through the city business owners records at the court house, so she could find my home address and bring her car over to me at 2 o’clock in the morning…. Because it was making this strange sound, but she didn't want anyone to know she was driving such an old beater. Seems she was trying to keep up with high society, but wasn't doing such a good job of it. Going to the shop during business hours made her vulnerable to her rich friends’ prying eyes. Yes, there were some smoke signals to pay attention to… (Could be what she’s smoking ?)….and no, I don’t fix cars at 2 am especially at MY own house!

Another good example was this couple who came in with a 25 year old Cadillac that they had taken to several different independent shops and to the dealer as well. All I heard was how much they spent, how much things costs, and how it never got repaired. The more they told me, the more the smoke signals grew. They clearly didn't understand how their car works, or cared to learn how it works, or paid any attention to anyone with said knowledge of how it works. Their mind was made up as to what was wrong.

First thing they told me was how the dealer was too expensive, and how they had been given a laundry list of things that needed repaired. Instead of deciding which was the most important or the most critical to repair they stuck to their own homemade diagnoses; … Every problem with the car was related to one thing. But, they didn't know what the one thing was… that’s why they brought it to the dealer. (The smoke is getting pretty thick right about now.) They expected the dealership to wave their magic wand and all would be perfect again. (Didn't know the dealership had one of those... gotta get one for myself.) My guess is that these folks have been misled somewhere in the past, and now they aren’t buying any answers from anyone.

 

Some of the issues could be related to a no start condition, like... the bad battery, faulty starter, loose clamps, or even the factory security systems not working, while other problems were a result of age and poor maintenance. The car wasn't in pristine condition, as they led me to believe. I would say it was more like barely hanging together, and that’s only because the rest of the bolts haven’t fallen out yet.

 

From one shop to the next, on and on their story went. To make matters worse things like the alternator and the starter motor were of such low quality that their condition was always in question. Now I've got to explain to the owners not only the difference in the quality of parts, but how lumping all these problems from the squeaking driver’s door to the front end rattle are not related to each other, but are separate problems. (I’m seeing smoke far off in the distance… troubles comin’.)

 

By now the smoke signals are telling me, “You will see this car again... and they are NOT going to be happy customers.” A few weeks later, I was right, and an aggravated owner called to give me an earful, “It's doing the same thing.”

Once the car was back in the shop it was clear it wasn't doing the “same thing”, but was another one of those long lines of issues that needed attention. I've gotta admit, I did expect it though. Those smoke signals were very clear that I would have another clash with this couple. Eventually, after a rather lengthy Powwow the smoke did clear, and all is well now.

 

There’s no doubt these smoke signals come in all kinds of various ways. Sometimes it's an old customer that you've known for years. They saunter up to the service desk, and tell you they took their car to another shop, but after spending a ton of money the other shop couldn't fix it. Now they’re back to have you take a look at it.

 

I'll ask, “Why didn't you bring it here in the first place?”

 

Their answer, “I was trying to save some money on the car repair. Some guy (there's that some guy again) told me this other shop had pretty good luck fixing this sort of stuff, and they were cheap, too. But now I paid them for all these parts that they put on, and it still doesn't work.” (??? “LUCK” ??? Seriously, that’s this cheap shops niche? Luck? I guess analyzing, diagnosing, and correcting the problem isn't part of their business strategy. He’s lucky I don’t have smoke coming out of my ears!) There’s a huge billowing smoke signal in the air on this one. It’s saying, “I don’t have enough spare cash to fix my car correctly, so I was gambling on the results at the cheaper shop… and I lost.”

 

It does take a bit of effort to read between the smoke and haze sometimes. But, doing so, you might find yourself better prepared, or in a better frame of mind to deal with the next situation. Classes are great to teach a tech. how to do this job, but life itself can teach a lot more about the people around you. It’s when those smoke signals are saying … “There’s a Loose Nut Behind The Wheel” … you’ll be glad you paid attention to the signs.

 

 

Click here to view the article

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites



  • Similar Forum Topics

    • 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?
    • 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.
      As we were finishing up, we couldn’t help noticing the stares from our waiter and the owner. Their eyes were laser-focused on us. They made it obvious that they wanted our table. We didn’t say anything to our waiter, or the owner. But we told each other, “We’ll think twice about coming back to this restaurant.” None of us ever did go back to that restaurant. And I heard similar complaints from other friends about that restaurant. About a year later, that restaurant closed its doors for the last time.
      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


      View full article
    • By Joe Marconi
      I think it’s safe to say that few people go to McDonald’s for the fine dining. In fact, McDonald’s struggled a few years back when it introduced healthy choices on its menu. Even with its challenges, McDonald’s is considered one of the most successful business models on the planet. It’s a brand that is so well known for its consistency that it actually promotes comfort in the mind of the consumer—a lesson in marketing that could prove powerful for your business.
      Imagine yourself traveling with your family on a highway far from home one night. It’s late, everyone’s hungry, and you’ve been on the road for hours. You’re not familiar with the area but you tell yourself to turn off the next exit and find food. As you drive off the exit, you notice a cluster of stores and bright lights; a good sign for weary travelers. As you approach the stores and bright lights you notice two food establishments: Billy’s Burgers and McDonald’s. The only two restaurants in town. Now you tell me: Which one would you choose? Most would choose McDonald’s.
      While there are many reasons why most people would choose McDonald’s over Billy’s Burgers, perhaps the most compelling reason is that McDonald’s has done an amazing job building its brand on the consistency of its service and its products. McDonald’s’ customers know exactly what they are getting, and that communicates comfort. People tend to feel more secure with what they know and what they anticipate.
      So, what does McDonald’s have to do with running a repair shop? It’s the marketing lesson of consistency of service. Promoting consistent world-class service with each customer will create an experience that will give customers a compelling reason to return in the future.
      Now, most of us are not franchised across the country, and many of us are single location business owners. Our business model is different in that we tend to build relationships over time. While we may not be a national brand, we can still have brand recognition in our community. We can still have a brand that communicates consistency and comfort; a winning marketing strategy.
      When a customer walks into your business, it’s not because he or she is hungry and looking to eat a meal. There’s a problem with his or her car, or a service they need to have done. People rely on their cars and leaving their car at your shop can be disrupting to their lives. This causes a level of anxiety within every customer. We need to recognize this and find ways to reduce or eliminate this anxiety. If not, the experience won’t burn a positive impression in their mind, which means they may not be back.
      The customer experience is a crucial element to the success of any company. But, do we fully understand the impact of consistency in service at every step of the customer experience? How being consistent can promote a feeling of comfort and security? Your customers must be greeted the same, the phones must be answered the same, car delivery must be the same, and the quality of service and repairs must be consistent. Something as simple as forgetting the lube sticker or not resetting the maintenance light can raise anxiety and make the customer question the quality of your service, which will have a negative effect on the entire experience.
      However, the marketing lesson is not only how you define great customer service, but in defining how to deliver consistent, great customer service at every step of the customer experience, time and time again.
      This strategy will ease the anxiety within your customer, which will benefit you the next time your customer’s check engine light comes on or when her car needs servicing again. By delivering a consistent, amazing customer experience again and again, you will instill comfort and security in your customer’s mind. This simple strategy increases the odds that the customer will think of you the next time for their automotive needs. And that’s the secret of McDonald’s.
      Think about this. A consumer is traveling to work on a Monday morning. She notices that oil change maintenance is on. This consumer has been to your shop, the dealership and the local quick lube in the past. She knows the cars needs servicing. Where will she choose to get her oil change done? Will it be your shop? Will it be the dealership or quick lube? That all depends on what business made the best impression in her mind.
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on January 25th, 2019


      View full article
    • By Elite Worldwide Inc.
      Whenever a customer tells you they can’t afford to do the repairs, and they ask you if you can help them out “this one time’”, you need to give careful thought before you lower your price. 
      First of all, there is a cardinal rule in sales that says before lowering your price, you need to build more value in your service. Yet as we all know, there are going to be some occasions where no matter how good your sales skills are, the customer simply won’t have the ability to pay for the recommended services. In such cases, you and your advisors will have three options. One, you can let the customer walk; two, you can drop your price; or three, you can follow the proven path we have provided to tens of thousands of advisors over the years. 
      First of all, if you let them walk, both you and the customer have lost. They’ve lost the time they’ve invested in having their vehicle inspected, and when they leave your shop their problems still exist. You’ve lost the marketing dollars you invested in bringing the customer through your door, you’ve lost the time you’ve invested in inspecting the vehicle and estimating the job, and you’ve lost the opportunity to help someone in need. 
      The second option you have is to lower your price, and while you may close that sale, you’ll also be sending a message to your customer that if they wouldn’t have asked for a discount, they would have paid too much. If that’s not bad enough, it gets worse, because they know if they ever decide to come back they’ll need to negotiate with you, regardless of the prices you quote. The good news is, there’s a third option, and it’s one that’s used by the top shop owners in America with great success….  
      Putting first things first, you’ll need to see if the customer qualifies for any legitimate discounts you offer, such as Senior Citizen, AAA or Military discounts. You can also limit the number of repairs to the ones they can afford at the time. Another option (which works well in some cases), is to scale back on some of the benefits, such as the length or terms of the warranty. If you and your customer find none of those solutions to be acceptable, you can consider telling them that you will keep their vehicle at your shop (space allowing), and perform the repairs if and when your time allows (when another customer cancels their appointment at the last minute and your tech has the downtime, for example). What your customer would be sacrificing is the immediacy and convenience.
      Please bear in mind that when making any decision to lower your price, you need to ask yourself who is ultimately going to pay for the discount, because the answer will inevitably be your other customers.  Secondly, if you have the right advisors, with the right principles, they’ll know in their hearts it’s just not right to charge two people different prices for the same service. To put it another way, I’m sure you would not want your mom or dad walking into any business and buying a product or service when you know the customer right before them… paid less.  Never forget, principles, not shell games, lead to two things: higher profits, and the ability to sleep at night knowing you are not playing games… with other people’s money.  
      Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite Worldwide Inc. (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers the industry’s #1 peer group of 90 successful shop owners, training and coaching from top shop owners, service advisor training, along with online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management seminars. You can contact Elite at [email protected], or by calling 800-204-3548.

      View full article
    • By Gonzo
      Twas the Night before Christmas (Mechanic style)   Twas the night before Christmas,  and all through the service bay, Not an engine was stirring,  just old Santa’s sleigh.     All the air hoses were hung,  by the compressor with care, The mechanics had the day off,  I’m the only one there.   I was just an apprentice, but wanted to show St. Nick just what I knew, My boss was all for it, said it was OK if I turned a few screws.   With visions of being a full time mechanic, dancing in my head I was going to give it my best shot; I’ll fix this old sled.    I gave the key a twist,and listened in dismay, That little red hot rod needed service, in such a bad way   Then from under the hood there arose such a clatter, That even St. Nick had to ask, “So, what’s the matter?”   I flew from the driver’s seat and raised the hood in a flash, Nearly stumbling off my feet, from my quick little dash.   The under hood light, glimmered onto the engine below, The fan belt had broken, and a spark plug blew out a hole.   It’s something I can handle; I learned this stuff in school, I’ll have this fixed up in no time; it only takes a few tools,   I started it up and all eight cylinders were firing away Just a few minor adjustments and he could be on his way   That’s when I noticed, his sled was packed full of all sorts of toys… He hadn’t finished his deliveries, to all the girls… and boys.   He was dressed all in red, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot   Anxious he was, to finish his trip as soon as he could, With my wrenches a flyin’, he knew that he would.   It was up to me, to get it fixed this very night, He still had a long way to go, before it was daylight.   His eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples, how merry His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry.   And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow. I knew it was Christmas Eve, so I couldn’t say no,   He had a broad face and a round little belly That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.   He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.   His sled was like new, after the job was all done, Now that it’s fixed, he could get back to his run.   He reached into his huge bag, and pulled a box out with a jerk, Said he knew just how to thank me, for all of my hard work,   I ripped open the present, and Oh, what a sight! Snap On wrenches and sockets!  Boy was he right!   As he pulled from the parking lot, he held the throttle to the floor, Just to show off, he passed by the shop, once more,   This guy Santa, he’s a little strange, at any rate, He had a name for every cylinder, in his little V8.   I could hear him shout, so loud and clear,  Naming off each cylinder, as if they could hear.   "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!   I heard the tires screech, as he caught second gear, Off to deliver those presents, some far, some near.   Then, I heard him exclaim, just before he drove out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”  
      View full article
  • AutoShopOwner Sponsors



×