Give every retail transaction your full attention.
You know the deal: A customer comes in looking for brake pads for his 10-year-old car, and is convinced there’s no need to put on anything but the cheapest pads you have in stock. After all, he’s selling it soon, isn’t he?
Or is he?
The problem with that scenario is that it has been played out so often in real life that there is a tendency for you, the experienced auto parts expert that you are, to jump to the conclusion that every customer with an older car is looking for the same kind of deal.
It is important for you to take some time and try to understand what it is the customer is really asking for.
1. Treat every customer like an individual.
This is not some esoteric term about individualism in the face of a society forcing us to conform. It’s about not assuming that the customer standing in front of you is the same as all the others who have ever done so, despite what he might be driving.
2. Always inform the customer.
A customer that is looking for parts as important as brake system parts deserves enough of your time to get him informed what his real options are, and not to feel that you are rushing him.
3. Always ask about the vehicle and how he uses it.
Like the customer used in the example, customers will often tell you that their older car is just being fixed up enough to get it to the next season. What they may not know is that the more worn a car may be, the more advisable it is to put the best brake parts on it to help compensate for other worn, poorly performing components.
Aside from that situation, it may be an opportunity to offer severe duty or performance options. Perhaps he is a potential customer for a ceramic option.
4. Value his time.
This is not a contradiction to the last point. While it is critically important to ensure that the customer has been informed of what you have to offer, it is not necessary for you to take him through the history of brake systems, or the many areas of engineering progress that you may be aware of. And, of course, when a customer is firm on his decision, it is important to move on lest you risk annoying him.
5. Never forget to include hardware.
Worn hardware has been proven to be an important cause of poorly performing, noisy brake jobs–for professionals, too– so it is important that you try to impress upon the walk-in customer just how important it can be to use new hardware. Often it is supplied in the box, along with a lubricant for the sliders. Please take a moment to ensure that the retail customer understands that leaving out this part of the repair is not advisable.
6. Don’t forget the rotor!
A customer who comes in to buy pads may also need to get a set of rotors. Ask him about a pulsing brake pedal, and that shudder you know all too well is a sign of a warped brake disc.
7. A little analysis.
Ask if he knows what the condition of his brakes is. He may have them on hand–having left the car up on jack stands–and you may be able to see evidence of, for example, extremely uneven wear. If so, you should point it out, and advise him to keep an eye on the wear if he’s comfortable with it. It may be a sign of a lazy caliper that could be rectified or just left alone and cost him accelerated wear on the new pads he’s buying from you.
8. The Import Question.
Particularly with the retail consumer, brand can be important. They may not know much, but some customers may be wary of installing a brand that doesn’t “sound” like it’s from the part of the world their car comes from.
So it is wise to know the details of your offerings for import nameplates, and to know about the OE connections. It is also important to know about upgrade options, particularly for European applications that may come with OE pads that the North American driver might find too dirty for his liking.
There is no doubt that import nameplates are becoming an important part of the marketplace. You should be well equipped to deal with the questions and concerns that might arise as a result.
9. Advice for the DIYer.
As much as many of us might be made nervous at the prospect of a DIYer handling a job as critical as a brake job– no doubt some of your trade customers will frown on the prospect–the fact is that a certain number of consumers are going to try it, and it’s important for you to offer what help you can.
Ask if it is a customer’s first brake job (you should be able to see the clues), and if it is the least you can do is walk him through the process, reminding him about bleeding the system, any advisories about the ABS system, and, as noted, the importance of using the hardware supplied.
He may also require some special wrenches or sockets, depending on the vehicle. If he’s not sure, see what you can find about the application and if possible, print out some materials.
Be helpful. The customer will thank you later.
10. Follow up.
While not possible for every customer, for those customers you have spent extra time with to help them, try to schedule a reminder to follow up. They will appreciate it and you will find out how you might be able to improve service to this important market segment.
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