Some tire dealers gripe they've run out of ways to meet or beat the competition. If so, I urge them to put themselves and their employees in front of the nearest large mirror. If the overall image reflected in that mirror isn't a winsome, positive one, it's time to concentrate on personal appearance improvements.
Too many owners and managers forget the old adage that before you can sell something, you first must sell yourself. Surely this point is obvious to some bosses. But based on the number of grubby, grungy service personnel I meet in my travels, I must conclude that what's obvious to some isn't obvious to all: Personal appearance is an invaluable sales tool.
Some people make excuses for the overall poor appearance of their work force. For example, they say everyone's casual and natural today. But casual really doesn't translate into unwashed, untrimmed, unshaven, ungroomed!
I also hear owners and managers complain that it's everything they can do to find employees who reliably show up for work everyday, let alone look presentable. Still others find it totally unrealistic to expect technicians and tire busters to shave and get haircuts. They claim no one wants to see or should see techs anyway.
Yet other bosses take the classic laissez-faire approach—they really don't care what happens and how workers look as long as the work gets done. That said, these are the same owners who bellyache that they need to get a step ahead of the competition.
Yes, there's a terrible manpower shortage in our business, especially a shortage of competent technicians. Some talented techs you meet are, to say the least, individualistic in manner and personal appearance.
That said, a capable, career-minded tech should recognize the importance of image and personal relationships in today's highly competitive auto repair market. They must realize they can't completely sequester themselves from the public eye anymore. At one point or another they have to face people to road test a vehicle or discuss its symptoms.
Think about it: You want this motorist to trust your service department with a $10,000-$40,000 piece of equipment. Meanwhile, your tech looks like he can't afford a bar of soap, a fresh razor or a haircut. Or if he can, he doesn't have the pride to bother with such ``trivialities.''
``If the worker's appearance suggests that he or she doesn't take pride in themselves, what's to say they will take pride in servicing my expensive machine?'' the customer wonders.
Look at it another way: What's the dollar value of good personal grooming when it helps a tech earn a repeat customer, especially when the motorist always insists that this particular tech be the only one to work on his vehicle?
Meanwhile, the cost of doing business keeps increasing. To stay alive you must sell a lot more parts and labor or charge more money for what you're already selling.
That brings us right back to the need for a positive selling atmosphere: No business I know of can succeed over the long haul without that.
If you don't get people to respect and trust you quickly, they'll probably take their business somewhere else.
Or they'll only spend the absolute minimum amount of money required to get their vehicle rolling again.
You may not realize it but these customers will express their distrust and disrespect for you by purchasing the rest of those recommended repairs and services elsewhere. Your sales people attribute this to fickleness or penny-pinching ways. But in reality, it could very well be your staff's overall grungy appearance that turned them off and prevents them from coming back.
Look at the collective image presented by the crew of a tire dealership or service shop that has built a stellar reputation and is prosperous year in, year out. It's typically a clean-scrubbed, well-groomed look. This doesn't rule out individualism, as long as the look is attractive and neat.
Am I daring to make bold subjective judgments about appearance in this age of stifling political correctness? YOU BET!! Am I urging bosses to set appearance standards and uphold them? RIGHT AGAIN!!
When in doubt, apply this standard: Does the employee's appearance add to or detract from the business' image? Emphasize in your employee manual that appearance counts as much as ability does.