Exercise good business sense on referral work involving motorists' hard-luck situations.
Never let emotions overrule caution — especially when a hard-earned referral demands that you risk time needlessly on a nightmarish repair job.
A referral amounts to the highest compliment an existing customer can give to your tire dealership or service shop. It is a hearty, personal endorsement of your business.
Attracting referrals is a smart way to maintain and boost your business because it's less expensive than traditional advertising.
Working with a referred motorist is a much more efficient sales transaction than dealing with an unknown sales prospect, because the referral typically has the same priorities and expectations as the person who gave him your name.
This means you spend comparatively less time selling yourself as well as your business philosophy. So, you focus more on selling the diagnosis and repairs that the referral's vehicle may need.
To put it another way, referrals are highly desirable customers because they constitute pre-qualified sales prospects.
Suppose your tire dealership or service shop emphasizes good value and high-quality work. If that's the case, the typical referral comes to you because he or she also prioritizes these traits.
This is a very different scenario than convincing a stranger to embrace those same traits and commit dollars to them.
The challenge is that some referrals offer far more risk than reward. Unfortunately, emotion may cloud a boss' judgment on a potentially risky referral in four ways.
First, someone may assign more value to a potential repair job than necessary due to an inflated ego. For example, some service personnel thrive on fixing vehicles that their competitors could not or would not repair.
On the one hand, earning these bragging rights may be a big morale booster for the service department.
On the other hand, bragging rights are a costly exercise when they depress that service department's efficiency numbers for that day or week.
Second, someone may assign an extraordinary value to a potential repair job simply because it is a referral — period. But referral or no referral, tackling a diagnosis and repair should — and must — make financial sense for the long-term health of the business.
Third, people like other folks to admire them and their talent. This emotion, it seems, has fomented a belief that accommodating every referral automatically begets another referral.
Ideally that should happen but realistically it may not. The boss must exercise caution here by continuing to weigh risks versus rewards.
Fourth, owners or managers may assign extraordinary importance to a referral simply because they feel so sorry for the motorist's predicament.
The motoring public has given auto repair professionals a bad rap for being heartless, cut-throat hustlers. During my extensive travels across the nation, I have seen service personnel perform kindnesses for motorists caught in difficult circumstances.
These gestures bolster my belief that most service personnel treat people the way they want to be treated. (They also make me wish for a video clip of each of these events for the public's benefit.)
However, work experiences tempered my views on bailing out motorists who were referred to my employer. I worked at a full-service, traditional service station located a stone's throw from the Pennsylvania Turnpike — one of the busier interstates in the nation.
I saw referrals arrive with their vehicles dangling from the booms of tow trucks. I remember referrals nursing injured vehicles into our parking lot — smoking, boiling, banging and backfiring all the way.
No one relishes having a trip interrupted by a breakdown; some of those distressed vehicles reflected bad luck and nothing else.
What is more, it's a great feeling to play "hero mechanic," getting vehicles back on the road for $10 a piece or some similarly minor fee.
But when all is said and done, it's unrealistic to claim each one as a charity case or play hero on every busted car.
I offer no standard, simple answers for handling referrals. Evaluate them one at a time and do not give the proverbial store away.