Auto Service World
Feature   November 1, 2009   by Auto Service World

Getting Into The Head Of The Consumer

Success in the automotive service business is as much about understanding the inner workings of your customer as it is the vehicle in the bay.

The most important thing for the independent shop to understand is the motivations behind customers ending up in their shop, and why some don’t, says industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers.

Speaking at the inaugural Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s Ontario Grand Forum, the noted analyst said that following the simple decisions can reveal much.

“You’re trying to find out what’s the very first thing [the customer] thinks about when he has an issue with his vehicle. And what’s the second, and what’s the third.

“You need to understand the thinking behind most consumers’ decisions and [why they] end up in one shop or not in one shop. You have to understand what you need to do to influence the thinking in that consumer’s mind.”

DesRosiers headlined an extensive series of presenters at the inaugural service provider conference, which attracted some 300 attendees to the day-long combination of presentations and workshops.

Some of the more notable sessions included “Operational Planning -Stop Hoping…Organize” by outgoing AIA Chairman and national manager of Petro-Canada Certi-gard, John Watt; “What’s New in Automotive Technology” by technical instructor for the Canadian Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) Council Dave Vollmer, and “Earning Sales Doesn’t Mean Selling” by director of marketing and training for KYB America William “Mac” McGovern.

DesRosiers offers that it is important to realize that car repair is a grudge purchase at best. “You live in a negative world. I think it’s really important that you understand, at an operational level, how to deal with that consumer. You have to have an awful lot of patience.

“Although,” he admits, “my dad, who ran shops for nearly 50 years, said that once in a while you have to ‘fire’ a customer.”

He recounted a tale of one incredibly difficult customer, “Fred,” who disrupted the entire shop with every visit. DesRosiers senior eventually sent him packing, only to have him beg to come back, offering to leave his car at the donut shop down the street, pay after hours, and never set foot in the shop again. That arrangement went on for years.

Living in this reality, DesRosiers said that shop owners could benefit from improving their strategic thinking. “Get to know your customers. It’s not good enough to have the customer leave your shop pretty satisfied, but not fully satisfied.”

Recognize, too, that it is a complicated process.

“Understand that there are no silver bullets out there. People say, ‘Tell me the one thing.’ There is no ‘one thing’; it’s attention to forty or fifty different things.

“It comes down to the fundamentals, and that comes right down to talking to the customers.”

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