Successful sales persons are skilled at the fine art of resolving customer disputes.
Tire dealers who really want to succeed in the automotive service arena must coach their sales staffs to resolve customer disputes quickly and effectively.
Some readers may think this argument is trite-a foregone conclusion to owners and managers who perceive themselves as knowledgeable individuals. But my field experience has convinced me that this topic bears repeating because so many service sales people I observe appear woefully unprepared to cope with unhappy customers.
In the first place, too many service sales people are needlessly distracted by the fact that disputes occur at all. In the second place, they behave as if every person approaching the service desk is another one of the obnoxious cutthroats who have taken advantage of the dealership in the past.
In other words, suppose dispute resolution involves hitting a pitch. These sales people have little chance of success because their eyes are completely off the ball!
Furthermore, I just love the reaction I get when I broach this topic with owners, managers or sales people. ``Holy smoke, Dan, it's been years since you were behind a service desk. People today are really tight with a buck-and suspicious, too!'' they exclaim.
(You've got me, folks. Money was never an issue 30 years ago in suburban Philadelphia. The streets were paved with gold and we wiped dipsticks with 20-dollar bills.)
Somehow I don't remember motorists authorizing us to throw money at a problem until we stumbled onto a solution. Somehow I don't recall appointment sheets laden with reckless spendthrifts.
To the contrary, I remember being accountable for every buck we spent on a customer's vehicle. When people spent money, they expected results. What a concept!
Before we attempt to resolve anything for anyone, let's learn the ground rules of this game.
First of all, remember that problems and mistakes are the only things you can count on occurring in a service business of any kind. Don't be surprised by them and don't become obsessed with them. You've got a group of mere mortals (your staff) trying to service and maintain highly sophisticated, man-made machinery (cars and trucks). If this isn't a recipe for trouble, I don't know what is.
Not if but when problems occur, deal with them promptly and effectively. Leave the whining and griping to those characters proppin' up the bar at the local tavern. And if nothing goes wrong at the dealership this particular week, say a small prayer of thanks.
Second, now that we agree problems are one thing we can count on happening, adopt the philosophy that dealing with those problems smoothly and fairly is what will distinguish you from your competition. In fact, effective problem resolution may be the only skill that separates you from a worthy competitor.
Third, your dealership's real character is never really tested until a problem occurs. It's akin to a marriage. That is, you never know the real strength of a couple's relationship until the marriage is tested by some of life's hardships. Likewise, motorists don't see your business' true stripes until a conflict occurs over service or tires.
How and when you resolve the conflict defines your stripes. That's why it's so important to focus on resolution skills.
Fourth, another thing you can count on is that a small percentage of the motoring public is out to cheat, chisel or manipulate everyone they deal with. They get out of bed in the morning with the goal of pocketing something to which they weren't entitled. Encountering connivers is a given in any service business.
Fifth, a little healthy skepticism is good for business. But treating everyone who approaches the service desk as a known cheat or manipulator can cripple your business. It will give your dealership a hard, callused edge it doesn't need or deserve.
Instead of being overly suspicious of people, encourage all service personnel to practice fairness and awareness at all times. Fairness and awareness will minimize the risk of a confrontation with a conniver that you didn't expect or want.
Tune in next issue for some tips on how to practice fairness and awareness. See you then!