AKRON (June 6, 2005) — Stinky interiors earn no points and win no friends. Therefore, all service personnel should respect each and every vehicle that rolls into your service bays by taking common-sense precautions against causing offensive, lingering odors.
This request appears to be so obvious that it sounds downright trite. But what's obvious to some is not obvious to all. Several shop experiences just within the last several months have reminded me just how badly some service personnel need lessons in professionalism or—as we used to call it, common courtesy.
Let's quickly review the fundamentals for those service personnel who might still be unsure of the commitment required here. Professionalism and/or common courtesy dictates that you always return every vehicle in no worse condition than when it arrived at your tire store or service shop.
In fact, savvy marketers know the fastest way to cull favor and earn referrals is to return the car in better condition than when it arrived. For example, at the very least, someone on the crew will clean the windows all around. At some shops, a worker vacuums out the entire interior as well as cleans the windows. At still other businesses, washing the vehicle is shop policy.
In all fairness, this is the standard some businesses have set for service. I know of some former service station operators who were doing this as far back as the 1960s.
At one end of the spectrum, people are returning the vehicle cleaner than it arrived. At the other end of the spectrum are service personnel who return vehicles reeking of cigarettes, cigars or cleaning solvent.
You've probably heard the expression that familiarity breeds contempt. I believe the automotive service equivalent of this saying is that familiarity breeds indifference. For instance, countless technicians I know seem to be immune to the stench of common cleaning solvents.
They've been around the stuff so much and have splashed it on themselves so often that they don't even notice it.
However, the motorist who isn't around solvent every day is much more likely to notice the odor for that very reason. Also, note that as many as 65 percent of the people purchasing auto repairs and services are women. A woman's sense of smell is always more acute than a man's. Expect a woman to be more aware of unfamiliar, unpleasant odors in her car.
Likewise, many smokers still don't realize how offensive cigarette or cigar smoke is to some people. The smell literally makes some folks nauseous whereas the smoker doesn't even notice it.
The other point that's difficult for some workers to understand is how easy it is to stink up someone's interior. For instance, you don't have to be smoking in the car to make its interior stink of smoke. I've seen countless instances where the worker's clothing smelled so badly that the odor of smoke or solvent lingered inside the vehicle.
Supposedly, no one noticed this until the customer retrieved her car and promptly—rightfully—raised a fuss. (Ever wonder why some husbands who smoke must change clothes when they get home?)
Failing to notice offensive odors doesn't excuse the person responsible for them. Take the “offensive” (no pun intended) against odor complaints by discouraging or forbidding workers from smoking inside the service department altogether.
Needless to say, smoking in or near any customer's vehicle should be forbidden.
Make it shop policy for techs to wear the appropriate gloves when washing parts in the parts washer or with cleaners in aerosol cans. Require techs to work extremely carefully so as not to splash themselves with parts cleaning solvent.
When in doubt, some service personnel mask potential odors by giving the interior a few shots of a deodorizer such as Febreze.