Auto Service World
News   August 6, 2020   by Allan Janssen

Commentary: Why YES works

Giving in to your employees is not always easy… but it’s often the best strategy.

By Allan Janssen

Many business owners will tell you with a straight face that the customer is always right.

I don’t exactly know how this is supposed to work. It seems to me that a line needs to be drawn somewhere when unreasonable demands are made. Otherwise customers would be “right” to demand free service.

In principle, it’s a good idea to surprise customers with flexible, accommodating service. After all, it costs you far less in the long run to keep a customer than to replace them. In practice, however, there is real danger in being too accommodating.

Ask yourself
if conceding
a small point,
or adopting
a new policy
is really so

For one thing, you’re giving an unfair advantage to abrasive customers, which can upset your more reasonable customers. No one likes to see boorish behaviour rewarded. Worse, though, a spineless response to bad customers can demoralize your employees. Ironically, it could contribute to a decline in customer service.

So saying “yes” to customers usually involves a judgment call.

It is a much more defensible strategy to say that it is employees, rather than customers, who are always right.

Keeping employees happy is extremely important, especially in the current era of labour shortages and full employment. In the auto repair industry, good employees are the key ingredient to a company’s success. Saying yes when it matters is a very powerful tool in a shop owner’s box.

It’s all too easy to give a knee jerk response if a request strikes you as a little too liberal or generous. You may be tempted to dismiss it as another evidence that “young people today are so entitled.”

But ask yourself if conceding a small point, or adopting a new policy is really all that dangerous.

Management consultant Cecil Bullard tells a good story about one shop owner who complained that his technicians were always “stealing” the snacks he put out for customers.

“If your techs want snacks, get them snacks. What’s it going to cost you? Fifty bucks a month? A hundred bucks a month? Do it!” says Bullard “What signal are you sending if you don’t let them have snacks, or a clean bathroom, or a nice lunch room? You’re saying they’re not important.”

Taking that advice to heart, one of Bullard’s clients put an employee in charge of shopping for snacks. If the techs wanted black licorice, they got black licorice. If they wanted fruit, they got fruit.

“Yes, sometimes the fruit doesn’t get eaten and it ends up in the garbage. That’s OK,” says Bullard. “That guy has a waiting list of 20 top technicians who want to work for him. It’s not because of the fruit. It’s because his employees talk about him at training classes, and they say he appreciates them.”

Customers are almost always self-interested. But your employees understand that their requests have to work for the business as a whole, or else no one will have a job.

So if your employees want something a little more complicated than fruit or licorice, it can be a trick to find the right solution. But there’s almost certainly a solution to be found. Take the time to find it. It will prove that you value your employees.

Let me know what you think. You can reach me at



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