Where Do You Work?
Why shops get this question wrong and why it matters.
Where do you work? The easy answer is to say that we operate behind a counter or that we fix cars in the bays in the back of our shop, but that answer misses the real truth by a mile and can cost a shop everything.
While my shop may indeed fix cars in a shop on Dry Creek Road in Littleton, Colo., the truth is we operate in a community. We arenít just in the business of fixing cars; weíre here to help neighborhood families save money and stay safe on the road.
Making this shift in your thinking has a major impact on how your shop presents itself to Ė and is perceived by Ė your neighbors. And the incredible thing is that changing the way you think about your shop and becoming a cornerstone of your community isnít just an exercise in feeling good about yourself; itís also what sets you apart from the dealerships, the chain stores and your competition.
In other words, changing your perception and your communityís perception of who you are, what you do and where you work is the key to more customers, more referrals and more sales.
No Easy Answers
But like most things in life, thereís no ďeasy buttonĒ we can push to change how our shops are perceived in the community. Chances are you have a favorite steakhouse. You know that theyíll cook your steak exactly how you want it, every time you go in. You know youíll get great service and delicious sides and leave happy and content. You know these things because theyíve set high expectations and met them consistently. Even with years of perfect meals and great reviews in the local paper, one week of tasteless, chewy, grey steaks and rude service would probably ruin their reputation permanently.
Itís no different for our shops. If that steakhouse paid off the local paper in exchange for a rave review, but couldnít deliver on the expectations that theyíd set, theyíd still go out of business quickly.
When I write about becoming a cornerstone of your community, Iím not referring to simply throwing some money at some charities and expecting good things to happen. Donít get me wrong: supporting charities and people in need in your community is a genuine and real part of becoming a cornerstone in your community. But itís not a quick solution for changing how your shop is perceived. If you proudly support a local youth baseball team, but your customers donít feel like you care about anything but making a quick buck off of them, your shop is no better off.
It Starts at the Front Counter ...
Changing your perception and your customersí perception starts right at the front counter. If a shop just waited for cars to break, just told customers how much it costs to fix their car, and just sat back and let them decide whether to go with that shop because of price, theyíll be out of business.
Unless you want to compete with chain stores on price, you have to set yourself apart. Be so aware of their needs and so dialed in that it doesnít matter that somebody down the road is offering it for $50 less.
Find a few price options to fit their needs and budget. Call them to give an update on their vehicle before they call you to ask. Take the time to educate them about their options and about the benefits and value of each service you recommend.
(Itís hard to contain to a single article all of the ways to provide superior customer service, much less a single paragraph.) Taking your shop to the next level starts in two ways: truly caring about your neighbors and their families; and constantly tracking, measuring and training your staff so that you are consistently aware of your real performance and consistently improving. For more ideas about how service writers can excel at going above and beyond and how you can easily and effectively track, measure, and train your team, visit www.autoprofitmasters.com.
... But It Doesnít Stop at the Front Counter
Think about how much of your community you interact with on a weekly basis, and not just in the shop. Everywhere I go, Iím surrounded by my customers or my potential customers. Driving down the road, at the grocery store, at my favorite steakhouse. If I build trust with a customer at the front counter, but act like a jerk to them when Iím driving around after hours, Iíll destroy those high expectations our shop has set.
Iím blessed to be able to work with a shop owner, Terry Keller, whose family lives out this philosophy every day. Iíve never seen him turn down a school sports team or extracurricular activity that needed support. Iíve never seen him turn down an opportunity to volunteer for his church, for the Boy Scouts, for his neighbors. Iíve worked with him for 18 years and have seen his love for the community every day.
Why Attitude and Perception Matter
Terryís attitude about the community and our neighbors is infectious. People want a relationship, they want to trust, they want to be taken care of, and your shop has the chance every day to be different and be the kind of shop that they trust, that they recommend to their family and friends. Terry genuinely cares for this community, and he attracts people that feel the same way to work for him. His shop is different, and people can feel it.
And when you can set your shop apart from the dealerships, from the chains and from your competition, you create a trusting relationship. It means more referrals. It means more visits from your regular customers. It means more customers following more of your recommendations. Trust, in other words, is the key to success: more customers, more referrals and more sales.
But trust is something we earn. We earn it by setting high expectations and then meeting and exceeding them, both at the front counter and out in the community. We earn it by being caring and committed to our neighbors, by remembering that at the end of the day, when we turn off the lights and lock the doors, our job is just beginning. We earn it by remembering that our job isnít to fix cars Ė itís to help neighborhood families. We earn it by remembering that we donít work in a repair bay, but in a community. And we earn it by treating those neighbors like the family they are.
Editorís Note: This article is one in a series of management articles contributed to AutoInc. by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org. AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.
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