By Dan Marinucci, Special to Tire Business
AKRON — Many tire and automotive service providers assume that unhappy customers automatically voice their dissatisfaction with their work.
Beware, because some aspects of human nature may turn that disgruntled customer away from you and toward a competitor. Here's why.
First, vehicle comebacks are serious matters no matter how insignificant the issue may appear to a tire dealer or service shop. After all, unhappy customers usually don't return. Worse yet, they say negative things about your service instead of complimenting it and generating referrals.
Hands down, repeat and referral business is the least-expensive work you'll ever attract – ever. The healthiest service providers always thrive on repeat customers and their personal referrals. And this doesn't just apply to automotive maintenance and repairs. Rather, it applies to any business providing services of any kind.
We're all human and we all make mistakes from time to time. The single thing that distinguishes many tire dealers and service shops is how they react to and address those mistakes. Mind you, your customer's issue may be real or perceived. But what matters most is that you're aware of it. Obviously, you can't respond to an issue that you don't know exists.
There's an element of human nature that some service personnel overlook. In previous columns, I've emphasized that you only get one chance to make that critical first impression — therefore, it should be a positive, winning impression. Similarly, many modern consumers only give service providers one chance to do a job correctly.
Over the years, countless — and I do mean countless — people have told me they're too busy to cope with auto service facilities that don't deliver a correct repair on the first try. They believe their time is far too valuable to spend it revisiting a repair shop. They've got more important things to do than plead their case a second time with you or anyone else in a service business.
So, contrary to your beliefs and/or experience, these customers don't complain. Instead, they consider the experience a lesson learned and then take their vehicles elsewhere.
Throughout my travels, I've seen dozens of auto service businesses displaying this or a similar notice in the customer waiting area: “If you like our service, tell others. If you don't like it, tell US!”
That may sound clever to some folks, but to many of those harried consumers out there who depend on reliable transportation, such an axiom is trite nonsense.
Consider another aspect of human nature: Many people avoid face-to- face confrontations. Yes, this consumer may believe he or she has a legitimate beef with your service. But in the long run, they think that taking their business elsewhere is less stressful than arguing with you.
The thing that is doubly vexing about these kinds of customers is that they often gripe to friends and relatives about their dissatisfaction, yet at the same time, they won't admit that they never gave the repair shop an opportunity to resolve the issue.
Simply put, it's much easier to place all the blame on your shop's crew than it is for the disgruntled customer to take any responsibility themselves.
Finally, these factors should convince tire dealers and service shop operators to create a formal customer follow-up program of one kind or another. Budget for it. Invest in it. Some bosses have told me that follow ups are a needless expense. I respond by saying that effective follow ups are invaluable investments in the future of your business.
I favor personal telephone follow ups. Someone who's uneasy talking to you in person may readily communicate with a welcome voice on the other end of the line.
What's more, that personal call may be the most memorable way to exceed that person's expectations of your dealership or service shop.
Dan Marinucci is a free-lance automotive service writer and former editor of two automotive service magazines who writes a regular auto service column for Tire Business. He can be reached via email at [email protected]. His previous columns are available at www.tirebusiness.com.