People Still Do Business with People
Many dealers and independent repair facilities are going through hard economic times. It's not easy to find the silver lining in this economy, but it is forcing us to take a hard look at our businesses. Expenses are being scrutinized to "get lean" in these hard times, but we must recognize our strengths also.
It can be difficult for the independent shop to keep up in this high-tech automotive world. Decisions on whether to buy or update scan tools must be made from information collected from the Web. High-tech tools are important to our success, but dollars will only stretch so far. Sometimes we get so focused on technology we lose sight of our greatest asset, our people skills. These skills must be updated, too.
As "independents," our greatest strength is our relationship with customers. Instead of recognizing this, many are trying to emulate the large dealership. Most customers can't wait to get out of that impersonal environment. We must remember that people still do business with people - not buildings or equipment. Those things are necessary, but the personal connection is what keeps our customers coming back. It is sad that most of us are very impressed when we get basic courtesy and good customer service anywhere!
Ever lose a friendly delivery person who has been delivering to your shop for a long time? Was your loyalty to the company or to that person? We build relationships with people we do business with. They know what we expect and we hate having to start over with another person. Our customers feel the same way. They want the familiar person they know and trust taking care of their vehicles. We need to help them build and nurture that relationship with us.
I had a new customer come to our shop a while back. I talked with her a few minutes, but she needed to pick up her boys by 3 p.m. from school. We did what we could while she waited, and rescheduled the remaining work. She wanted to come back when I was here because she felt I had her best interests at heart. When you have attempted to duplicate "car sounds" with someone, you have bonded. Many customer relationships are lost simply due to poor people skills.
What can you do to build relationships with your customers? Treat your customers as you would a guest in your home - with a smile and a handshake. Do you take time to thank your customers for their continued business? Do you really listen to their concerns, and ask permission before spending their money?
Some friends have impressive homes, but we may feel more welcome in a friend's modest home because we feel cared for. What is your customer's perception of your shop? From the first phone call, to the delivery and the follow-up - do they feel
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