AKRON (Feb. 11, 2000) — Where were you in ´52? In my last column, I said that automotive service providers in 1952 faced the identical challenges we battle today.
Almost two generations later, we still haven´t overcome fundamental image, confidence and trust issues.
The sooner some tire dealers recognize this fact, the sooner they´ll dig in for a long-term war against distrust and negative images. The sooner they realize that these are age-old issues, the more effectively they can plan long-term image improvements.
Last time, I illustrated how little things have changed by citing articles from 1952 in a Cincinnati-based trade journal (Automotive Service Digest) that urged service shop operators and managers to work smarter and more professionally. Here, we´ll flash back to that year to revisit some of the same topics regular readers have seen repeatedly within the pages of "thoroughly modern" Tire Business!
Countless service personnel I meet are searching for the equivalent of quick-fix gimmicks they hope will overcome or offset festering image and confidence problems that plague their businesses. As the writer in that trade journal emphasized almost a half-century ago, you can´t build a successful business without establishing the fundamentals.
"...Building confidence is the first essential for building profits. And the only way to build confidence is through a positive attitude. And a positive approach toward service problems grows from knowledge of the business," he said. "...Only with this confidence established will the customer give the `go ahead´ on a big repair order."
Today, we joke that in the old days, the proverbial bigger hammer fixed everything on the vehicle and screaming louder handled cantankerous customers. Not so! The author argues that ongoing training and reading trade journals (hooray!) is essential for everyone in a service shop.
Automotive knowledge creates the confidence that enables your people to close more service sales more often. How many times have you read that in this column within the last 10 years?
Too many managers I meet discourage their technicians and service writers from attending classes because they´re afraid time away from the dealership may jeopardize their bonuses by reducing the store´s overall sales volume for the month. These shortsighted individuals will do anything provided it doesn´t threaten that almighty bonus. I respond by saying, read on.
"The guessing days are over. The modern car is entirely too complex to be serviced with guesswork methods. Half-way methods in automotive service are as silly...as having one shoe resoled because there is a hole in that shoe," the writer states.
Holistic service approaches, one-stop shopping strategies and comparisons to the medical profession may sound like modern themes, but the Automotive Service Digest article encourages service personnel to become "...the doctor of the whole automobile—and be sure that your prescription is accurate."
How many times have I urged readers to counsel motorists like a good doctor and then document their recommendations? That documentation protects your reputation and builds a foundation for follow-ups to future service sales.
Almost 50 years ago, we find a writer saying: "So it is up to you...to tell him what his car should have to perform satisfactorily. And incidentally, your recommendation should be written on the repair order. Then in the event of a future complaint, you will be in the clear."
What´s more, the author has the nerve to suggest that when motorists ignore your professional advice, they alone take responsibility. Obviously, this author had never felt their pain!
Honesty, courtesy, dependable service and genuine respect for customers´ time and money are truly timeless assets to any business. When coupled with technical and business training, they form a lasting foundation for the professional image and trusting relationships we seek. In turn, these create a positive and unbeatable selling atmosphere at your store.
Hopefully, this brief flashback to 1952 convinces you that these are time-honored traits on which your entire crew must focus. It should also serve as a sobering reminder of how far many auto service providers have yet to travel before they call themselves professionals.