The automotive service indus try's overall image will advance when service personnel stop belittling competitors in front of customers. Professionals such as doctors and lawyers avoid doing it, and we should follow their example. An old joke about shipwreck survivors helps illustrate my point. A doctor, lawyer and accountant who are clinging to wreckage debris find themselves surrounded by sharks.
Some of the sharks devour the doctor and accountant, but others carefully push the debris supporting the lawyer to shore.
After the stunned attorney reaches the beach, he shouts to the sharks, ``Why did you push me to safety?''
``Professional courtesy!'' the sharks respond.
Owners, managers and service personnel need to develop their own sense of professional courtesy. Here's why.
Accentuate the positive
Automotive service personnel at every level realize their industry is battling to overcome a negative image caused by a small minority of unscrupulous people who rob the public every chance they get. Perhaps these thieves are the automotive equivalent of ``ambulance chasers'' in the legal profession.
Compounding the image problem are honest but inadequately trained repairmen who fail to diagnose and fix cars correctly the first time.
True, many doctors don't diagnose patients accurately the first time, yet they are universally regarded as ``professionals,'' as are lawyers.
Meanwhile, more and more automotive service personnel are walking and talking like professionals, too.
So overall, what separates one group of professionals from another? Attitude and demeanor spell the difference.
Both groups are cursed with an undesirable element. But publicly, one group of professionals tends to ignore this faction, the other doesn't. Therefore, one group deftly highlights the positive by shunning the negative.
But the other professionals-automotive service personnel-inad-vertently emphasize the negative by verbally assaulting fellow practitioners.
Perception is reality
Think about your exposures to and firsthand experiences with auto repair personnel. Compare that to encounters with doctors and lawyers. For the moment, ignore the fact that they wear different uniforms and that auto repair people get dirty.
Obviously, you go to a service shop when your vehicle is sick. Competent auto repair people improve diagnostic accuracy by gathering pertinent background information on the car and its con-dition.
Likewise, you visit a doctor or lawyer due to an unresolved health or legal issue. A legal or medical professional listens to your problem and also gathers historical information: What's been done about the condition thus far? Who did it and when?
Next, compare typical reactions from each group of professionals.
I think you'll agree that, even when a doctor or lawyer disagrees with how your problem's been handled so far, he or she rarely criticizes the actions of a colleague in front of you.
Typically, a medical or legal professional makes a polite remark such as, ``We'll move forward from here with our technique.'' Or, ``We know other legal options.'' Certainly, legal and medical professionals who ignore the misdeeds of colleagues is a serious, but separate, issue.
The useful lesson here is that these professionals don't waste time trashing a fellow professional because it's usually counter-productive. You're in his or her office because you have a problem and you're probably upset about it. If anything, a customer wants to be soothed and reassured.
Now compare the legal/medical scenario to the auto repair one.
I've been in the shop and at the service desk, so I understand why service personnel feel tread upon and underappreciated.
But too often they tee off on competitors' personal and professional reputations the moment a motorist admits another shop worked on his car.
That competitor may be a thief or an imbecile. But the motorist already feels lousy because he realizes going to the competitor was a mistake. Crucifying the competitor only emphasizes a negative and reminds the motorist he exercised poor judgment. It also heightens the person's uncertainty about or fear of misspending money again.
A negative, stressful situation isn't conducive to selling anything-including automotive service. The most successful salesmen never openly attack competi-tors.
Instead, they reassure the prospect of their ability and create a favorable selling atmosphere by stressing their strengths and advantages.
Learn from the example of other professionals as well as good salesmen. Sell more service more often by keeping your approach upbeat.
Let competitors beat themselves!