Many service salespeople are obsessed with providing fixed finish times for every maintenance and repair job.
This inflexible approach may cause enduring, negative consequences for your tire dealership or service shop. Here's why.
Blithely giving motorists definite finish times without consulting a service manager or technician first is risky business. Experience shows you get away with that glib approach some of the time but certainly not all of the time. You're entitled to gamble—but never whine to me when the tactic angers people and costs you customers.
Let's briefly review the big picture of customer satisfaction. It helps to place the discussion into the proper perspective. The keys to long-term success are meeting or exceeding customers' expectations.
Every time a vehicle isn't ready on time, your business hasn't even met — let alone exceeded — expectations.
Another essential part of meeting expectations is fixing the vehicle correctly the first time. Long after factors such as price and time are forgotten, the motorist remembers that it was fixed right on the first visit. That was true in the later 1960s when I started in this business and it's still true today.
Look no farther than the auto service businesses in your neighborhood that meet two criteria: First, the dealership or service shop has been in business 20 years or more. Second, the business has a stellar reputation and a large, loyal following of repeat customers.
These successful companies always prioritize “fixed right the first time”—even when jobs take longer than predicted.
Surely, the emphasis on fixed right the first time has to filter down from the top levels of the business, through the managers and to the sales staff and technicians. But when you watch some service sales people operate, it appears this concept is not the priority. Rather, the priority is to hook the motorist at any cost, then push as much volume through the bays as possible.
For example, the perky salesperson may blurt out, “We work on everything, including those vehicles.” (The translation of this is that the techs do turn wrenches on a wide range of vehicles — and they actually fix some of them.) Or, the sales person may confidently announce, “We'll have it ready for you by 6 o'clock.” (The translation of this is that he or she has no idea how long a tech needs to locate the car's problem. Rather than risk losing a “live one,” we'll promise the job by closing time.)
In today's fast-paced society, countless retailers promise a wide variety of quick turn-around themes. If your team really has the automotive experts you claim to have, then you recognize that some jobs simply uncover more than your techs or the motorist bargained for.
Therefore, the job takes longer than predicted — end of story.
I welcome readers' comments on scheduling more accurately and on handling situations where techs encounter legitimate delays. But for now, consider these tips. First, be sure you have as much contact information from the motorist as possible. At the very least, be sure you have the customer's cell phone number and email.
Second, don't frighten motorists with needless pessimism about a maintenance or repair job. At the same time, politely reassure the car owner that you'll contact him or her immediately if a hitch in the job occurs. Repeat that the more easily you can reach the person, the more quickly you can react to complications in the repair job.
Third, anyone running a service business can count on one thing: Delays, snafus and problems always occur. What the customer counts on is you handling those delays promptly and courteously. The vast majority of people will appreciate — and remember — the courtesy.
Last but not least, be sure that all technicians and service salespeople are communicating clearly among themselves. Continually coach them about meeting or exceeding customer expectations, and that rolling the car out at the promised time may or may not meet that goal.