Auto Service World
News   July 25, 2023   by Bruce Eccles

From the Magazine: It’s Your Turn: Those personal touches

It still comes down to relationships as a shop owner

No matter how large our shops are we are small businesses. And as small business owners, it’s impossible not to take things personally.

I embrace changing technology — it brings new challenges daily. We all know times are changing and vehicles are changing along with it.

But most concerning is that people are changing — and the way we communicate with each other.

I can learn new software; I can send my staff to training to understand new vehicle technology. But figuring out people? That’s a tough one.

There’s a strange new attitude among people these days. There’s a sense of entitlement and a ‘blame someone else’ mentality.

So, I ask, where have all the gentlemen gone?

It didn’t take me long in the industry to realize I had to get thicker skin. I lost many nights’ sleep worrying — not about what was really important, like my family, but about Mr. Smith’s intermittent charging problem or the vibration in Mr. Barney’s Jeep.

I took it all personally. And, of course, I was responsible for my employees’ actions, good and bad.

I soon understood that some customers will never be happy. They hate their vehicle and now it’s your problem because you touched it. Over time, we weaned out these folks. We worked hard at providing the best possible service to those who appreciated it.

No doubt we developed strong relationships through this process. It’s these clients with whom we have relationships with to this day.

But this is a new era of people — from your customers to your staff. It’s difficult to develop a relationship by text messages or email. You just can’t beat a face-to-face conversation. Even a phone call allows you to interpret a person’s feelings.

We always said our clients are our best promoters because of word-of-mouth. That’s still true but it exists in a different form. Now it’s all about websites and Google reviews — some from a ‘local guide’ who isn’t even a customer.

Because we are human, things don’t always go as planned and mistakes do happen. When a client brings to your attention a concern or has a complaint, hopefully, they allow you to make it right. They may even tell others how you handled an issue.

But that’s different these days. When a person writes a poor review under an alias, it makes it harder to rectify the problem. We always respond to these reviews by asking them to call us to discuss and resolve the matter — yet, we’ve never had one call.

When researching a business, I often read the reviews. It’s no coincidence most of the poor reviews have similar overtones. It begs the question: Was the business given an opportunity to resolve?

It kind of goes back to the fact that some people will never be happy regardless of how hard you try. I find it easier to concentrate on the positive reviews.

We will continue to provide the best possible service and progress with the times — but as an aging Baby Boomer I miss the good old days.

Bruce Eccles is the semi-retired owner of Eccles Auto Service in Dundas, Ont.

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This article originally appeared in the June issue of CARS.

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