AKRON (Feb. 27, 2006) — Respecting both the motorist and his/her vehicle should be a foregone conclusion for all competent service personnel.
Unfortunately, many I have ob-served have yet to learn these rules, and their ignorance will cost them dearly—if it hasn't already.
My travels as an equipment salesman, reporter and technical trainer have enabled me to watch countless service personnel at all levels of the automotive repair business. On the one hand, our industry is blessed with kind, compassionate people of the highest integrity. But image-wise, we aren't out of the proverbial woods until we tame the rude ones out there. These are the people who sorely need lessons in the basic but essential courtesies.
You could argue that every industry has a bad element within it. You could say we shouldn't overreact to a relatively small percentage of bad apples in the barrel. I'm convinced, though, the only way to improve is to keep our standards of courtesy and professionalism high. These standards should include maintaining the highest respect for everyone who approaches our service desk as well as every vehicle that rolls into our bays. Perhaps a little refresher would be beneficial.
First, all people deserve your time, attention and common courtesy regardless of their attire, personal appearance, speech or origins. Sure, you can usually tell a book by its cover, but not all the time. I've seen service writers and managers badly misjudge newcomers more times than I care to remember.
For example, the fellow in the dirty khaki work clothes who speaks in some kind of thick accent actually owns that plumbing or masonry company. He happens to be back in his work clothes because he's shorthanded. Not only has the flu ravaged his workforce, but he also just learned that several of his valuable trucks need attention. Unbeknownst to you, he'll probably bring the maintenance of all 30 of his trucks to your tire dealership if you provide prompt, quality service.
See, this time your instincts are all wrong. The smooth talker in the designer suit at the other end of the counter has an oil-change coupon in his pocket. This time, the potential gold mine is the man in muddy boots whom you can barely understand. So you should listen as patiently to him as you would to the lawyer with the coupon.
Second, keep your personal prejudices and smart-mouth comments to yourself. My attitude is, you can't be overheard and suffer the consequences if you just keep your feelings to yourself. You'd be amazed how many people in the customer lounge or waiting area actually overhear your smart-aleck remarks about someone's attire, speech, race, etc. They're offended for a variety of possible reasons—not the least of which is they're wondering what you might have said about them!
The tough thing is that the offended party gets more than just angry—they get even. They don't come back, and they repeat your wisecracks to others in their circle. That's not the caliber of word-of-mouth advertising you seek.
Third, no one needs to hear your personal feelings or assessments of anyone's vehicle. Disparaging re-marks about someone's mode of transportation add nothing to your credibility or the overall image of the dealership or service shop. The fact is that every day people purchase vehicles you don't like to drive or don't care to work on. What's more, this person may al-ready be suffering buyer's remorse and may not be able to afford a different car right now. Or, simply put, they just like what they're driving.
Criticizing or denigrating a person's car can offend other customers within earshot. The reason is that some of them may well remember their own car-buying mistakes or the days when they simply couldn't afford anything better than a clunker.
Life is much sweeter and work is ultimately more profitable when you don't prejudge people, their pocketbooks or their machinery. You may well exceed expectations and win customers simply by treating people decently and fairly—period.