I have said many times within this column that you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
That advice may seem so obvious as to sound trite to some readers, but my field experience keeps telling me that it bears repeating.
This time, I'll cite examples of the kinds of things that supposedly sharp tire dealers and service shop operators are missing. Some owners and managers need to spend less time looking for the next whiz-bang, can't-miss marketing scheme and more time on needy details right under their noses.
First, if you want motorists and prospective customers to take you seriously, be ready for business early. Early means everyone's ready, primed for action and at their work stations at least 15 minutes before the posted opening time. I realize that some readers are already struggling to get the entire staff into the dealership by opening time-let alone get in early. But in case your workers haven't noticed yet, you aren't running the business for their benefit.
Rather, you're working for the motorists out there who comprise your customer base. You're in a service business and its nature is serving others. The better you serve your customers, the healthier your business will be over the long term. The healthier the business, the better off its employees will be. Workers who struggle to get to work on time, let alone come in early, need to understand this simple but vital relationship between the business and its customers.
To me, service businesses that aren't fully ready for customers by opening time are disrespecting those customers in a big way. Many motorists are strapped for time and depend upon the kindness of co-workers and/or family members to get to work whenever their vehicles are in the shop. Often, they need to speak to service personnel about unusual vehicle symptoms.
They're concerned enough about the symptoms to prefer discussing them face-to-face with you, the service provider. Respect and appreciate this need to express their concerns. It's downright rude when they have to wait and wait for someone to hear them out.
Regular readers know that my training work forces me to travel a great deal. A combination of coincidence and happenstance has made me watch this scenario several times. From an observation point 30-50 feet away, I can see the body language of motorists waiting for service personnel and it isn't pretty. A forlorn expression and drumming fingers on the roof of the vehicle are not positive body language signs. Someone leaning against the car, cradling their head in their hands is not a warm precursor to the service sales experience at your tire dealership or service shop.
Observing this, I'm reminded of the survey in which consumers said they'd rather go to the dentist than get their vehicles repaired!
Second, many bosses need to take more pride in the appearance of their businesses. No, the outside of the tire dealership or service shop need not look like a Las Vegas entertainment palace. But it should be clean and neat enough to show a comfortable level of personal pride and professionalism.
Maybe the best way to make the point is to compare it to your own home. Most folks I know have enough pride not to let a broken gutter hang from the front of the house for several months. What's more, most people wouldn't allow a broken shutter, damaged awning, etc., to dangle or flap around for months.
But I continue to observe these things. I check back into the same hotel six months to a year after my first visit. When I'm taking my gear out of the car, I notice the same bent, tattered or broken sign dangling from the same tire dealership down the street. When I mention it to the hotel manager, she tells me it's a neighborhood joke and embarrassment.
In short, what positive things do these ongoing eyesores say about you and your business? What's it say about your self-image and self-respect? If you don't value your own image and reputation, why would you value and respect someone's personal transportation-a machine that likely costs much more than many of us paid for our first homes?
Many small details comprise a positive first impression. Start with a clean, neat facility that opens early. Tell me if it makes a long-term difference. I know it will.
Dan can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]