Customer trust In recent issues of Tire Business, automotive service columnist Dan Marinucci has discussed building consumer trust through the use of vehicle inspections.
Forry Hargitt, director of operations and training for Cincinnati-based Tire Discounters Inc. weighed in on the topic in a letter to the editor in the Feb. 2 issue of Tire Business, and Mr. Marinucci responded in that same issue. While Dan promotes that customers benefit most when shops fully evaluate a vehicle to the best of their ability, Mr. Hargitt warns that consumers often bristle when confronted with a long list of repair recommendations that are beyond the scope of the customer's original maintenance or repair concerns.
As an industry, we have to get this right.
As professionals, we have an obligation to inform our customers about any impending maintenance or repairs issues regarding their vehicle.
However, we are also obligated to present those issues in a manner that allows customers to know we have fully addressed their original reason for visiting our shop, and also that they feel informed about their vehicle's condition while still being empowered with options for further services—performed either now or at a later date. Customers listen, understand and respond best when they feel that they have purchase options and some control over the situation.
A long list of repair issues unrelated to a customer's original concerns often leads to a shop feeling proud of its diagnostic skills while the consumer feels trapped or simply the victim of sales pressure. Outcomes can be poor for all involved. The answer lies in addressing the customer's feelings as well as the vehicle's symptoms.
It is safe to say that most often customers bring vehicles to our shops with a simple maintenance request or repair concern. Let's say you've earned a new customer by offering a free tire rotation with any oil change service. During the tire rotation process, your general service technician visually spots a brake concern.
It's a great opportunity for the shop to show its expertise and potentially to earn a sale by performing a necessary service, but we now must make sure the customer is involved and invested in the rest of the process in order to achieve the best possible outcome for all.
At this point in the repair, the technician should make the service adviser aware of what he has found. The service adviser, should then approach or contact the consumer with only that information at hand. “We are actively completing the oil change and tire rotation that you requested and during the service we spotted a possible brake concern.”
STOP right there. Before you start quoting possible diagnostic scenarios, time frames or cost estimates, it's time to ask for permission to go forward.
“Would you like us to (have our ASE-certified brake technician) perform a thorough inspection of your vehicle's braking system so that you can have an accurate evaluation of its condition?” It's always best to ask your customer for permission to inspect any part or system on their vehicle. Some shops—through good intentions—simply “inform” customers about their inspection processes and expertise.
Asking permission sets the tone by giving the consumer choices while putting them in control of the situation. This simple request is often the first step to building a trusting relationship with your customer. As most shops offer some type of cursory or routine inspection with almost any service, start there.
Ask customers if they would like you to give a quick look at the vehicle for any obvious issues. Anything you observe beyond the original service request should lead to asking further permission to fully inspect, evaluate and document the affected system(s).
The same applies for repair concerns. If customers arrive at the shop with a braking issue, they deserve a thorough, systematic, documented inspection and evaluation of every component in the braking system before advising them of any maintenance or repair concerns regarding any other vehicle system. When broken down into its components, the process is simple. Always address the customer's initial concerns first.
Ask for permission to perform your shop's prescribed visual inspection for any obvious concerns beyond the initial request. Ask for permission (again) to fully inspect and document if your trained staff identifies any other concerns.
Then present all the information to inform the customer, not necessarily to increase the original repair ticket. Let the customers know what's still OK on their car, what requires immediate attention and then advise them of any issues or service that may require attention in the near future.
If given viable options from a trusted adviser, an informed consumer usually makes good vehicle maintenance and repair choices.
Joseph M. Henmueller President and COO Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association/Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) Arlington Heights, Ill.
I manage a family-owned retail tire/full service store, and I'd like to thank Dan Marinucci for taking the time to write his auto service columns for Tire Business. I have read about and practiced a lot of info and tips that Dan writes about, and it has made our business successful. I have managed this store—a store my father built—and I love this shop.
Originally, I left home, went out of town and was selling tires and I loved doing that. I'm interested in any advice Dan might offer to me. I began managing the store two years ago, and last year we had the best year in the history of this store, which was built in 2000. We are on pace to increase gross sales by 15 percent. I have changed everything about our store; we have work orders now and use Mitchell 1's Manager SE shop management system to help keep track of them.
But not all of our technicians have bought into my way of operating the shop. I can't sell a job then find that the vehicle hasn't been fixed properly.
Can you offer me any information on steps or procedures I should take to get my techs to do proper diagnosis on these vehicles?
Andrew Jackson Manager Jim's Tire & Brake Inc. McAlester, Okla.
I enjoy and look forward to reading Dan Marinucci's columns and have made it my job to reprint and issue a copy of his articles to my technicians and sometimes clients, too.
In response to his article, “Build trust—beat negative stereotypes,” in the March 2 issue of Tire Business, my father and I live by one simple rule: We never sell anything to a customer that we cannot show them is needed in one way or another.
This practice is sometimes very time-consuming. But in turn, it has proved time and time again to more than make up its pay time in the customer's trust with us. I often have a technician take a vehicle for a road test with the customer along for the ride, and have them show the customer real numbers on a scan tool both pre- and post-repair.
Or we show the customer a new brake pad out of the box vs. the one in the caliper bracket on their vehicle that is worn down to the backing plates. This practice has won us customers' trust and loyalty every time.
Aaron Fried Vice president Tire Warehouse & Auto Repair Center Inc. Spring Valley, N.Y.