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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?
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Is there a way to get GM to pay labor warranty? I have a customer's 2005 Chevrolet SSR 6.0L Automatic. Oil pan threads were stripped and we got a new oil pan from local Chevrolet dealer (very pricey) and labor intensive. When I got the oil pan new in the box, it had metal shavings from the casting marks to which we cleaned out and it was fine. We installed the oil pan and after putting some mileage on it, we noticed oil on the ground. After lifting it up we discovered that the oil pan has factory casting marks and oil was literally seeping through the bottom of the pan through the casting mark. The tech is not happy, I am not happy and I'm about to call the customer to tell them the news so they won't be happy paying for more rental car time.
I called the parts department from the dealer that I purchased from and told them what happened and they can exchange the pan but they don't pay labor. Very frustrating cause of the labor involved and the customer who had a rental car for about a week now and already turned it in today thinking she was getting her car? Is there a way to get labor reimbursement? I already tried the GM 800 number and filed a complaint and they said it would be about 2 business days or whatever before I get a call back from a rep. Does anybody know how to find a local GM rep to come see their crappy product?
Geek With Attitude Now I realize I'm only a mechanic, and not an Ivy League scholar, and I may not qualify as the next inductee into MENSA, but I’m still a pretty smart guy. Oh, I may not know all there is to know about every single make and model out there, but I have enough background and technical ability to solve just about anything that goes wrong with the modern car. But, for some people the mere thought that a mechanic might actually have a few brain cells just baffles them to no end. A few weeks ago I got a call from a guy, who (to the best of my dim witted abilities could tell), was having a problem with his truck. He told me that he pulled all the fuses, and was still having a battery drain issue he couldn't find. He even took it to another shop and wasn't happy with their results, so he was going to give me a chance at it based on a friend’s recommendation. “Bring it in tomorrow, and I'll get it checked out for you,” I told him. The next day a 98 Nissan pickup with 150,000 miles on the odometer was waiting for me. After getting the owner’s information, I went over what he wanted me to do. Little did I know this guy had all the answers already. Not only the answers, but several ideas as to what was causing his problem. This particular guy was a full-fledged computer geek with more than a little attitude to go along with it. Not only did he think he was dead right about everything, but that every mechanic out there was nothing more than a knuckle dragging grease monkey with the IQ of a walnut. The more he told me about the problem the more I knew I was in for a long afternoon. Seems everything that was ever wrong with the car from the day he bought it was leading up to the moment the battery went dead. But, of course, it's not dead now... that takes a month before it would happen. “A month?” I asked. Oh, he had an answer for that too. It all started with the front crankshaft seal. The seal was leaking, and it leaked all over the alternator, so he had the seal changed along with a new alternator and battery. (Both the alternator and the battery came from one of those cheapo depot places; imagine where the seal came from.) A month went by before the car wouldn't start again. The seal was leaking too, but not nearly as bad. “Hmm,” I said, sitting at the service counter thinking this whole thing through, “You say it takes a month before it won't start? Are you driving it much?” “Yes,” he said, “Every day.” This didn't add up, something else is wrong with the car. As I tried to explain to him that if a car is driven every day, and starts perfectly fine, but then all of a sudden it goes “click-click” it tells me there is something else wrong, and it's probably not a battery drain issue. “Leave it with me, and I'll check it out,” I told him, Apparently, Mr. Geekdumb doesn't have a clue how a car works, other than where to put the gas and which way the key turns. Not that I’d hold that against him, a lot of people don't know a thing about their transportation. It's just that most people don't try to sound like they do, especially while standing in front of somebody that just might. Once I had the truck in the shop it turned out to be a classic problem; the battery bolts were tightened down as far as they could go, but I could easily pull the cables off the battery without any effort at all. The charge output and parasitic draw tests showed no signs of any problems. As for the seal leak. Well, if you've been around cars with high miles and poor maintenance you've probably seen this before. The PCV valve was clogged. Without that, no ventilation for the lower end, and of course, a back pressure builds up and that pressure has to go somewhere... usually out a seal, and the front seal is one of the usual places for it to go. Explaining all this to the computer nerd turned out to be a whole lot tougher than I thought possible. How one person can act and think that they are so smart, but can't see the logic behind the explanation is beyond me. The more I tried to explain, the more this guy asked even more bizarre questions. I gave him the run down on the battery clamp issues, “Yes, a loose battery clamp can make the car not start. Sometimes you'll get one quick turn of the starter then nothing, not even a dome light. Other times you'll get a “click” which is what your car sounds like. This can also stop or restrict the alternator charge output from entering the battery.” “So, that’s why my dash lights don’t work?” he asked. “There's no relationship between the charge output and the dash lights. That's a separate problem. Most likely the rheostat,” I said. “Well, what about the switch on my dome light, it doesn't work. I’m positive that is due to the front seal and the PVC you mentioned.” “Sir, it's a PCV not PVC, “Positive Crankcase Ventilation” is what it stands for, and no, it has nothing to do with your dome light.” “So I have two PCV’s in the car?” “No, just one.” “So where's the PVC?” “That would be in your house most likely. Most homes have PVC plastic piping.” “So, now you're telling me I don't have two PCV’s?” “I never said you had two.” This went on, and on. My frustration level was getting to my MAX level, and I'm about to tell this guy just where he can put his PCV and his PVC. But, after lengthy deliberations he eventually decided to have me at least fix something...one thing…change the battery clamps. He had the solution for the dash lights, dome light, PCV, and the front seal. I apparently don't understand, or fail to comprehend how all his other problems are related to the dead battery. He showed up later that day to pay for the clamp replacement, and it wasn't hard to tell this guy had an ego driven “micro” chip on his shoulder. He wasn't about to have some lowlife mechanic explain the physics of the internal combustion engine to such an astute individual as himself. His parting comments as he walked out the door said it all. “I work on highly technical and advanced systems on home and business computers that are far above the complexities of anything you’ll ever see. I'm better off fixing my own car, because I have a degree, and my intelligence level is far superior than any mechanic.” Really? That's the best you got? Better luck insulting me next time, fella…leaving is probably the smartest thing you’ve done so far… don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.
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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
If there is one thing that doctors and dentists do very well, it's that they book the next appointment for their clientele. I have heard every excuse possible why many auto repair shops don’t do this. But the fact remains that everyone in your shop today will need future service and repairs. And the question is, “Are they coming back to you.”
Another reason for booking the next appointment is that there are times when not all the recommended services were done today. Some were postponed due to budget and prioritizing what’s most important. So, before that customer leaves, make sure the customer commits to a future date to have the work done. After all, why did you recommend it in the first place?
Car delivery is the time to review all the work done today, continue to build the relationship and to inform your customers of upcoming work and services. But don’t leave it to chance that the customer will remember. Be proactive, discuss future dates and put those dates in your calendar.
Lastly, call customers a few days before the appointment as a reminder. If the appointment has to be moved, then move it.
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
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By Joe Marconi
We sell service, not products. Yes, we sell water pumps, brake pads and air filters. And yes, those are products. But it’s the service we sell, the customer experience, which lives on well beyond the customer leaves your shop.
Think of it this way; when you buy a watch, or a new cell phone, the experience of what you purchase continues after the sale. When we replace a customer’s water pump or air filter, there is very little about those items that lives on beyond the sale.
But, what does live on is the customer experience. The better the experience, the more likely the customer will return to you. So focus on the customer experience, not the products you install.
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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