Auto Service World
Feature   May 1, 2005   by Auto Service World

Delivering on Promises

Tips The Customer Equation Your Way

Weak shop owners and managers are demanding more from the wholesale part of the industry because many of them are under crisis and are not sure what to do.

When a shop asks, “Can’t you do better on the price?”, it speaks volumes about the shop’s problems. These shops cannot even see what their problem is, because they are so lost in the forest of their business that they can’t see one tree.

One line holds true for many weak shop owners in the country: They don’t know enough to know that they don’t know.

The problems facing these weak shops must be addressed by our industry as a whole if the industry wants a strong aftermarket segment to sell to in the future. This is a culture change for the wholesale and retail aftermarket. In order to resolve these problems, everyone must get their head around it.

But, on the other side of the coin, what do the stronger shops’ owners/managers demand?

Frankly, they also demand a lot, but for a very different reason. These shop owners are much more entrepreneurial both in their thinking and the management style of their shop. They understand the consequences to their bottom line of weak business relationships. They insist that their chosen jobber perform.

If the jobber isn’t performing up to expectations, better shop owners usually proceed in two steps: Inform the jobber of their disappointment and their desire for the jobber to turn things around; and if the jobber doesn’t come up to speed after a reasonable time has passed, they seek out a new jobber.

These successful businesses cannot afford to be involved with a jobber who does not understand how his performance can have a significant impact on their bottom line. These shop owners will continue this search process until their mission is accomplished. It is interesting to note, though, that when the jobber consistently delivers what is reasonably demanded, he is rewarded with first-call loyalty, full payment monthly, and one heck of a great business relationship.

That’s not a bad result, considering it is what every good jobber wants from his own business.

Of course, many jobbers say that they do in fact understand what the top shops are demanding of them, but then fail to discriminate among their customers as to which ones have earned their high-value service.

Applying the concept to every shop they deal with can be a big mistake for the jobber because, of course, it can overtax his resources and often falls apart when the shop doesn’t live up to its side of the deal. The better shops don’t get the service they need; the weak shops don’t deliver the volume and profit the jobber needs.

The next thing you know, the jobber now classifies all shops as the same, but the root of the problem is that the jobber did not pre-qualify his shop customers.

Jobbers competing in the marketplace always try to give the shop owner the best impression possible about themselves. They want to show what they can deliver in value, or to put it another way, what they think they can bring to the table. Many jobbers can do a really unbelievable job at setting up the story, a vision in one’s mind, as to what they can do for a shop owner. The sales pitch is awesome.

But it is what can happen after the words have been spoken that makes all the difference. This is why the best shop owners take the sales pitch with a grain of salt.

No business is perfect, but too many jobbers provide promises without solid, sustained actions to back them up. This is the core of the problem in our industry and why business relationships are tough to forge between the jobber and shop owner. It takes two to dance. Lip service is very cheap and very abundant throughout our industry, but when the jobber’s words are actually supported with actions, the jobber learns that this can lead to a substantial dollar investment in terms of time and energy to meet the promises he has made.

In these cases, it appears that the jobber did not really understand the consequences of his words. To many jobbers the words sound good, so they use them to try to impress shop owners, and they perceive that is all that is required to convince a shop owner to switch his purchasing habits.

Everyone must clearly understand the fact that, in our industry, perception is reality.

When the jobber sales representative has finished painting a great picture in the shop owner’s mind as to what the jobber business can do for the shop owner, it is usually the jobber management that ends up failing the shop owner, not to mention the store’s sales representative. It ends up looking as if jobber management is not truly committed to the words being spoken by the sales representative. And, consequently, their jobber business’ actions end up speaking many decibels louder than the words delivered, which in turn creates the negative perception, a new reality, to the shop owner.

This is the perception that is difficult to erase, because when one experiences an action, it becomes a physical experience, and the physical is much more memorable than a quick visual experience. Please think about that.

The best shop owners see this very clearly. It is because jobbers are not thinking through their business concepts properly, or they believe the only thing they are responsible for is delivering parts and collecting a cheque.

This leads many jobbers throughout the industry to blame the shop owner and never themselves.

Consider that the best shop owners are really saying only one thing to the jobber side of the industry, and saying it loud and clear: Please say what you mean and mean what you say and stop the smoke and mirrors show. It is killing all of us.

What is wrong with wanting that? How can the better shop owners be blamed for having that attitude?

To correct any wrong perceptions, clear one-on-one communication is going to have to take place with each shop owner. Do you the jobber understand your customer? Does he understand his own business? Do both of you understand how the puzzle should be put together so both of you benefit from the relationship? Are both of you committed to making the relationship work?

Business success today is like a marriage. Both parties must be committed to not let the other one down. If it were easy, all marriages would work out. In reality, many do not. The shop owner must pre-qualify the jobber and the jobber must pre-qualify the shop owner.

When two parties are committed to making things work, watch out–miracles do happen.

Robert (Bob) Greenwood is President and CEO of E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. and Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. Bob has 28 years of industry-specific business management experience. He has developed shop business management courses for independent service providers recognized as being the most comprehensive courses of their kind available in Canada. Bob is the first Canadian Business Management Consultant and Trainer to be recognized for his industry contributions when he received the prestigious Northwood University Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award in November 2003. E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. offices specialize in the independent sector of the automotive aftermarket industry preparing analytical operating statements for management purposes, personal and corporate tax returns and business management consultation. Visit them at and sign up for their free monthly management e-newsletter. Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. is a leading edge company devoted to developing comprehensive shop management skills through the E-Learning environment. Visit AAEC at . Bob can be reached at (613) 836-5130, 1-800-267-5497, FAX (613) 836-4637 and by E-Mail: or

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