AKRON (Nov. 21, 2005) — 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 im-pression: 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 up-grade 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.