Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2012   by Andrew Ross


Whenever the subject of the service provider comes up in conversation with the jobber, the issue of loyalty isn’t far behind.

The fact is that fewer and fewer jobbers put much faith in the loyalty of their trade clients. Even the long-term, trusted clients will head down the road to another jobber to save a few pennies, I often hear. The funny thing is, I hear a similar complaint about your lack of loyalty from the independent service provider.

In many cases this is expressed inelegantly, with accusations flying about how a jobber will sell parts to anyone with a cheque in hand, and over the counter to a walk-in customer at the same price (or sometimes lower!) than they can buy.

Of course, as you know and sometimes offer in your defence, that walk-in customer walks out with the part and leaves you with the cash in hand: no cost of carrying those receivables, no delivery costs, little in the way of warranty returns – and often, a very quick transaction.

But even the most hard-hearted jobber knows that the professional service business is his bread and butter, and that, at least occasionally, they might have a point about the conflict between walk-in and trade sales.

Just about every business is guilty of inadvertently making a good customer wait – on the phone or in person – while they take care of what they thought would be a quick transaction. Even a couple of minutes on hold can seem like an eternity.

And just to be fair across the board, it is also true that sometimes professional

service providers can spend minutes on end pressing their favourite, trusted counterperson why this or that part is a dollar or two – or sometimes even a dime or two – more expensive than another jobber.

Anecdotes and comment aside, however, what I have found flies in the face of these clichés. The professional customer base is in fact incredibly loyal to those organizations who know what they really need. They will pay a little more for the service and support. They understand the value of efficiently making those parts orders. They will work with you to get through problems. But even the most loyal have their breaking point.

There is ample evidence of this.

Over the past two years, our Annual Shop Survey has revealed an incredibly loyal group of individual business owners who often worked patiently and hard to get past a specific problem or two, only to finally throw up their hands in frustration.

One shop owner reported that he finally gave up on his long-time, number-one jobber when, a year into a computer system transition, the counterpeople still had trouble finding parts. Yes, he eventually left, but it took a year. That’s loyalty in my books.

While there aren’t always easy solutions to tough problems, the common thread is that trouble seems to brew when money is involved – slow credits, for example – or if time is lost when delivery isn’t as promised.

The first is easy to understand. Any amount of money is important; no business should ever assume that a customer is okay with waiting for what they deem to be a small amount. In fact it’s almost worse. A customer would understand a $1,000 warranty credit taking a while, but they certainly don’t understand having to wait long for a $50 credit.

And when it comes to time, if your usual delivery is half an hour but you find you have to run to the warehouse for a pickup, you had better call that customer to let him know. You may lose the sale, but if you don’t, you may lose all the sales from tomorrow on.

Yes, if you want loyalty you need to understand that it’s all about time and money for the service provider; if you can do whatever possible to take care of both, you’ll go a long way to ensuring their loyalty.— Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor,

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