Making a positive impression is vital to earning that coveted word-of-mouth advertising. Sometimes, seemingly small courtesies make the biggest, most favorable impressions.
Here are some examples borne of personal experience.
I should clarify that when I purchase goods and services, I pay the going rate and don't expect anything more than any other motorist. I expect fair, professional treatment. If I expect or want more, I pay for it.
Many people in the automotive service business have recognized my face or my name over the years. My friends needle me about how that should ensure top-flight service but, in fact, it does not and has not.
What's more, I change or withhold names to avoid slamming people who already have embarrassed themselves through shoddy work, rude behavior, etc. But here I'll cite by name Leipold Tire Co., a Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, dealership, simply because its crew set a good example and did so at the right time and place.
About 18 months ago I realized it was time to replace the original equipment tires on my family's primary car. Several friends and colleagues urged me to try Leipold Tire, an established independent, family-owned dealership. So I phoned owner Dennis Leipold to set up an appointment. First positive impression: Not only did I reach him on the first call, but he made time to talk tires with me.
I explained my needs to Mr. Leipold and said I'd been buying a familiar, premium brand for 25 years. However, he suggested a different, less popular brand because his customers had been raving about its performance and durability. He believed it delivered a superior value and more closely matched my purchasing criteria.
I never asked the price nor did he mention price. The product was supported by a money-back, 30-day trial program. Second positive impression: This man sounded very confident and very informed.
My wife took the car to the dealership. The people were polite, prompt and professional. Third positive impression: My wife was very pleased with Leipold's service, and the tires were every bit as good as promised.
Two months ago, a tire on our other car developed a noise and a leak. Closer inspection revealed distorted belts and an unrepairable split in the middle of the tread. Although these tires were only 2 years old, the failure convinced me that the safest, soundest move was to upgrade the entire set and chalk up the failure to experience.
I phoned Mr. Leipold again and coincidentally, the same brand and type of tire he recommended last time again met my purchasing criteria. I made an appointment to have four tires installed later that week. This car is 17 years old and its original steel wheels looked worse for wear. A friend treated the car to a low-dollar spruce up by prepping and carefully repainting a spare set of steel wheels for it.
Two days before my appointment, Mr. Leipold called to warn me that there might be a slight delay on the job. His very alert crew noticed that the tires set aside for me didn't look right-looked older than normal. Suspicions aroused, they looked closer and found the tires were manufactured in 2003. Mr. Leipold said there was a remote chance the warehouse might not get the replacement tires to his store in time for my appointment.
Fortunately, the warehouse delivered in time and a contingency plan wasn't needed. Fourth positive impression: I was floored that his crew was sharp enough and concerned enough to catch this and correct it.
Arriving for my appointment, I saw the crew was as courteous and efficient as my wife had described them. Seeing the refurbished steel wheels that I brought with me, Leipold's technician treated them as if they were alloy wheels. He mounted the tires on a rim-clamp style tire changer and used plastic-coated wheel weights during the balancing procedure.
Fifth positive impression: He treated my 17-year-old machine as if it was his own car.
I didn't know the price of the tires until Ben Leipold, the owner's son, put the bill in front of me. I already knew I'd gotten a great value from proud, conscientious people. When friends and colleagues ask why I drove 30 minutes out of my way for tires, I have at least five solid reasons that created the peace of mind with a shop that I've described in many previous columns.