There's a widely held suspicion among motorists that automotive repair facilities sell unneeded work.
Consequently, the No. 1 job for tire dealers and service shop operators should be dispelling this disruptive stereotype.
This theme is hardly new, but it's always timely. During the years I've been writing this column, I have discussed it several times, several ways. Over the last 10 years, consider how many auto service conferences feature seminars on professionalism — those best practices for dispelling negative impressions of this business.
Here's another way to recognize the topic's newsworthiness. Make mental notes of how many auto service facilities within your market area are reinforcing the shady, shyster stereotype vs. debunking it.
Here, negative stereotypes relate to several recent columns in Tire Business. In case you missed them, I'll put this into perspective for you.
First, many tire dealers and service shop operators I encounter are worried about slow service traffic and empty bays. This is a common complaint I hear as I'm crisscrossing the country. Bosses wring their hands and complain, but they don't reflect on why bays are empty or suggest solutions for improving business.
This prompted me to suggest an age-old technique in my Jan. 19 column. That is, focus on getting vehicles into the bays and then inspect them as thoroughly as practically possible. Then identify a vehicle's needs, prioritize the work as needed and ask for the sale. Eventually, some service facility's going to get that work — why shouldn't it be your place?
My field experience has shown that vehicle inspections come in a variety of formats, from very basic to fairly detailed. What's more, some dealers and service shops perform vehicle inspections more effectively than others.
Typically, those who do it successfully have been refining the technique for years. And, among other things, the approach demands planning, skill and finesse.
A reader recently argued that service facilities should move away from vehicle inspections because the technique contributed to the industry's tarnished reputation. Indeed, some service providers have tried to aggressively hustle all kinds of maintenance and repairs to the motoring public. Yes, some service providers have scammed uninformed and/or gullible car owners.
The bad rap we all tend to get from time to time is the sleazy image of auto service businesses hustling unneeded work. The unscrupulous operators among you have managed to typecast tire dealers, service shop operators, etc., as charlatans and shysters.
That may be stating the obvious. The challenge is finding solutions — and the fixes are anything but obvious to many bosses I meet.
I've observed auto service businesses that have been successful and profitable, for instance, for 20-25 years. They have developed loyal clienteles and consistently sell more maintenance and repairs than their competitors. Unfailingly, these businesses I admire share an important trait: They constantly try to dispel and debunk the negative stereotypes of auto service businesses.
Exceeding expectations is important in today's cutthroat marketplace. For these successful businesses I've cited, the key to exceeding customer expectations is dissolving that nasty stereotype of the sleazy operators.
Dispelling this label paves the way for successful service sales — regardless of how a shop's crew identified the need that resulted in the sale. This includes everything from maintaining eye contact with the motorist to prioritizing the work—and much more.
Now it's your turn, readers, to tell me the most valuable ways you've found to defeat the negative stereotypes plaguing the automotive service business. You're probably fighting the negative image in more ways than you realize. Email your comments to me via [email protected].
Meantime, keep fighting the good fight.