Cleanliness is next to godliness. It's also a valuable, cost-effective marketing tool for tire dealers who perform automotive service. Marketers like to exploit product features that make the product distinctive and memorable-favorable memories that prompt consumers to buy the product again and tell their friends about it.
The product you're selling is auto service. Cleanliness should be a key feature of every repair that technicians perform regardless of the dollar value of the job.
But the realities of the marketplace are that cleanliness is often lacking.
As one manager put it, ``The moment the customer opens the door, he knows someone's had his hands all over the car.''
Conversations with astute owners and managers, as well as my own shop experience, convince me that adding the cleanliness feature will be a hit because it's a pleasant surprise to most motorists. These customers will appreciate you more because your techs didn't leave their ``signatures'' on the interior or exterior of their vehicles.
Savvy service personnel know the way to impress customers and earn their loyalty is to simply surpass their expectations.
Revome the excuses
Implementing a cleanliness program is relatively inexpensive and easy provided you eliminate the common excuses techs trot out when a customer complains about a greasy door handle.
First, invest in a paper towel dispenser for each work station or service bay. Either mount the dispenser yourself or have the tech mount it himself in the location of his choice-but mount it immediately.
You can buy paper towel rolls by the case dirt cheap (no pun intended), so there's no reason to do without.
What's more, there's a wide variety of disposable paper ``wipers'' available on rolls or in pull-out dispensers. Besides automotive suppliers, contact industrial supply outfits or specialty paper suppliers.
Second, purchase all-purpose spray cleaners such as those used for the bathroom or kitchen. They are usually adequate for the kinds of cleaning jobs techs do on door handles, door panels, steering wheels etc. Like paper towels, you can buy cleaning products cheaply in bulk at discount centers.
You also may upgrade to stronger commercial-grade cleaners that automotive chemical companies offer.
Whatever route you take, do something. It's better to implement a cleanliness program on the cheap than not at all. Once you implement it, set the example where necessary. If the shop's extremely busy and you notice some paper towel dispensers are empty, refill them yourself. Not only will techs appreciate this small courtesy, the gesture reinforces the importance you place on a clean image.
If you start the program with a flourish but allow empty spray cleaner bottles and towel dispensers to remain empty, you're undermining your own efforts.
In some shops I've visited, each tech has his own ``detail pail'' containing spray cleaner and a small scrub brush. These fellows don't want the owner to see a lone clean spot on a very dirty part. So if they get grease on an already dirty steering wheel or door panel, they quickly scrub the entire part.
Typically, the customer's flattered and almost self-conscious about the extra attention given to his or her dirty car.
Customer feedback tells us the clean up effort telegraphs pride in workmanship and a genuine concern for the customer's property. These are the warm emotions that help bond customers to a service center's staff.
Avoidable or not?
Try applying the ``avoidable vs. unavoidable'' standard to sloppy technicians. Many capable techs are oblivious to grease prints or oil stains because their work experiences taught them these were normal, acceptable occurrences.
When I was a manager, I had difficulty convincing otherwise-good workers to clean up after themselves. Recently, a working owner in a service shop gave me the simplest, most effective ground rule I've heard.
When he finds grease on a car, he asks the tech if the soiling was avoidable or unavoidable. Phrased this way, the tech realizes it's time to grab his cleaning materials and make good.
This owner also emphasizes the value of the vehicle to his techs. ``A good used car today is $5000-$10,000, a new family sedan can be $15,000-$20,000. Those are substantial bucks to many customers, so we must treat those vehicles accordingly,'' he said.