Auto Service World
Feature   September 20, 2010   by CARS Magazine

The Customer: The Most Important Commodity

Only excellence in service creates apostles; only apostles bring long-term customer loyalty.

The customer who enters your service shop is a peculiar guest. He is full of whims and fancies. And he is full of worries and fears about his car. And for good reason: he’s painfully ignorant about his car’s innards.

But when it comes to you and your service shop, the customer is a vital resource and the very foundation of your business. Put another way, you’d dearly miss him if he didn’t come in. After all, at the end of the day, he’s the one signing your paycheque.
As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart once noted: “There is only one boss. The Customer! And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money elsewhere.”
Service shops are especially prone to harsh criticisms from their customers. The reason is apparent when we examine what it is we sell. Service is intangible. You can’t see it. You can’t take it home in a bag. It’s something that’s sold by trust alone.
A perfect example is selling brake pads over the parts counter and servicing brake pads in the shop. If a customer isn’t satisfied with the pads, the parts advisor can take the pads back. But service performed on brake pads cannot be returned; labour cannot be retrieved.
The customer, lacking a true knowledge and understanding of his car, realizes his disadvantage. He is, therefore, a little suspicious. For example, you may tell him that you have tuned his engine; but you can’t prove it. He has to take your word for it.
Of course, you may point under the hood. But that doesn’t prove anything to a person who lacks automotive knowledge. Performance, however, will prove you’re telling the truth. Therefore, your main task as a service tech/advisor is to satisfy the customer with the integrity of your service shop. You want him to feel that you know:
1. What is wrong with his car;
2. What will be needed to correct his troubles;
3. How much the repairs will cost;
4. When the car will be ready.
Likewise, you want to feelthat you have completed the repairs as promised. When you have accomplished this task, your other duty of selling service won’t be so difficult.
Notice my emphasis on the word, “feel.” The customer has no way of knowing that you will (or are able to) repair his car trouble as promised. But if you’ve given him the impression that you are trustworthy, he will have no doubts. Thus the entire relationship between you and your customer is ultimately built upon trust.
The customer formulates his opinion of the shop through you. Your understanding, your problem-resolution skills, the courtesy you display and the confident tone of your voice… these qualities will go a long way toward satisfying a customer. You want him to have the feeling that “here is a place to do business and come back next time without hesitation.”
Your First Sale
Appearances count, so sell yourself to customers by your appearance. A tidy, organized shop and a clean, well-dressed service tech/advisor is the best invitation for a customer to come in and conduct business. A clean tech/advisor advertises a clean, careful shop; a dirty tech/advisor suggests the shop might be sloppy.
Many customers have been known to hesitate when it comes to leaving their cars at a shop which otherwise has a reputation for excellent work simply because of the appearance of the shop. Keep your shop and reception area tidy and organized. This is the gateway to your business.
If the customer’s first impression is formed by your appearance, it is either destroyed or strengthened by your attitude and manners!
All too frequently a customer drives into a shop to find no one there to help him. He may sit in his car or he may step out. But he waits! And as he waits, his impatience mounts. When a tech/advisor finally comes around, that customer isn’t in a good frame of mind to discuss his car problems. It’s even more irritating to a customer if he’s brushed aside by a tech/advisor who fails to recognize him. Or to be met with the greeting, “I’m busy now, back in a minute.”
If a condition exists in which a customer cannot be waited on immediately he should at least be acknowledged – i.e., “I‘ll be with you in just a minute.” And please – say it with a smile. Doing so will completely satisfy the customer – provided, that is, you keep your promise.
Also, offer him a coffee and a newspaper while he’s waiting. The point is, by recognizing him, you have indicated that you’re aware of his presence and that you intend to help him.
Studies have shown that almost 70% of customers who “quit” do so because of an attitude of indifference by the company or a specific individual.
The greeting of the customer is the most important sale of the day. That greeting will determine whether the customer feels that he was justified in bringing his car to your shop in the first place. If properly handled, the customer will not only feel satisfied but will also feel downright thankful. A friendly positive attitude inspires confidence, and confidence sells bigger repair orders.
Finally, respect and treat your customers as you would like to be respected and treated. Remember, it is the satisfied customers who collectively sign your paycheque. Treat your customers like kings and you’ll retain them for life.

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