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Profiling In the Auto Repair Industry

Profiling. It is a word used a lot in today’s news, but I don’t think you ever thought that you’re doing it in your repair shop, yet it is happening every day!

Let me share a little story that happened this week with you. My 20-year-old son had a nail in his tire he took it to a local, nationwide chain tire store and asked them to repair it. They took a look at it and told him they would patch it, but they couldn’t guarantee the repair. Although he is car savvy, he is not an expert. When the tire store offered to patch it, and that was the only option they mentioned to him. He had them go ahead and repair the tire. The next morning on his way to work at 75 miles an hour on Interstate 5 the tire blew! Fortunately, he did not lose control of the car, hit anything, or anybody and was able to get the vehicle safely to the side of the road. He then had to wait for a tow truck on the freeway. They took him to a local tire store.

So why is this story remarkable?

Here’s why the tire store that he took his car to should have never offered to repair the tire. As the experts, there should’ve been only one option and that was to replace the tire! But I feel they failed their most basic job repair information to this young man. Why didn’t they offer to replace the tire? Why did they not even suggest that as an option? After the tire blew, he spent almost $200 to have the tire replaced. Plus, it cost him additional money because he was late for work. When he came home, he had a straightforward question for me, he said dad why didn’t they tell me I needed a tire? I would’ve bought the tire. What I truly felt happened was they profiled him. He’s a young man, and maybe they didn’t think he could afford a new tire, or they’ve been taught incorrectly about their function as the expert in the tire and automotive business.

Each and every day there’s a trainer across the United States telling repair shops not to prejudge a customer, the car and in most cases, it goes on deaf ears. We look at the customer; we look at the car and decide whether they have any money to spend or if they want to repair the vehicle. In today’s terms their being profiled. Now here’s the funny thing this is one of those young men who work 60+ hours a week. He takes on double shifts so he can afford his cars. At 20 years old he owns 2 cars. He pays for all the repairs on those cars and although an enthusiast, and with a father who’s been in the automotive business repairing things for many years, he still relies on the experts to help with some of these repairs and decisions. So, let’s look at what the shop really missed out on. What would’ve happened when that tire blew, he could’ve been in an accident, hit somebody, or something. Who would the lawyers hold liable for that, the young 20-year-old man who works at the airport or the nationwide chain tire store who touts themselves as experts in tires? This shop risked not only the reputation but also any liability when something terrible happened. Ask yourself how many times in the last week did you have this thought, “that car is not worth repairing”, “that customer doesn’t have any money”, or ”if I asked for what’s necessary to repair the vehicle correctly they wouldn’t buy it and I’ll lose out on the sale”. “Some money is better than no money!” And that is precisely the thinking that cost us literally hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

We have to stop profiling our customers

It is my opinion that what we need to do is inspect every car, tell the customer everything it needs to repair it correctly and with the least amount of liability to us as the repair provider and to provide the customer with what they really want which is a safe, dependable, reliable transportation. This instance isn’t the only time that this young man’s been profiled, but this was the most serious and although a couple hundred dollars is a lot of money it’s a pretty small sum of change when you consider what could have been. So maybe you the owner or service advisor are not profiling your customers. Are your technicians? How many times have they come up to you and tell you that car is not worth repairing? That is not their job to make, that decision is only one person to decide if the vehicle is worth repairing is the customer. At any time, you take that decision out of their hands you have not only cost yourself money, but you have also created a liability for you if something terrible should happen. Now even if they would’ve written on the repair order that they don’t guarantee the tire, imagine how this would sound in a court of law with a jury who has no understanding of automotive repair and looks at the brand name and says why did you not repair the car properly?

We as an industry need to change the way we think about car repair

We are professionals, and the definition of a professional is someone who gets paid for service or product. We have liability when we make decisions that affect our customer’s well-being. We need to get in the habit of treating each customer and each car exactly the same way! I’m sure in your local community the person who has the most money in a lot of cases doesn’t look like it and the person it looks like to have money really doesn’t.

So how should we treat our customers? They brought the car to you because they have a problem and require some type of service. They depend on us to give them good sound advice on how to repair the car properly and the priority in which those repairs should be performed. As most of you know, I have preached for years that you need to inspect every car top to bottom front to back make a list of the vehicles deficiencies services and maintenance items, write an estimate and simply tell the customer everything that you recommend that you have found. Let them make the decision on how much money they’re willing to spend on their car. This will accomplish 2 things. It helps minimize your liability if something should happen, it provides the customer with the highest level of service and allows them to be fully informed about their vehicle. If we treat every car the same and we perform the same inspection on every vehicle. If we have to defend our position, we have consistency in how we do business.

By providing this level of customer service by communicating well with them by keeping them informed and helping them make the right decisions without the thought of price will make this customer a customer for life! Think about this is simply one time a day you or your service writer did not offer one item that was $200 because he didn’t think the customer would buy it or could afford it $1000 a week $52,000 a year of money that you gave away because you simply assumed they would not buy it. Here’s the other factor is a man is 20 years old he will own cars and be driving for at least 40 more years. After the experience he had with this tire store where it is a loyalty and trust lie? So, let’s look at him as an average customer that you’ll see in conservative terms 2 times a year with an average repair order of $500. Again, I’m being very cautious here. So, in his potential lifetime sales are $1000 a year times 40 years or $40,000. Now we have to factor and that at work he’s kind of known as the car guy. Virtually every week he’s asked by somebody about where to get the car repaired or how to get the vehicle repaired so let’s say that each year for 40 years, he sends you 5 customers who are just like him so now your total loss could be upwards of 200+ thousand dollars! Factor in the cost of bringing new customers in it adds up very quickly.

So how do you know if they have money?

How do you know if they’re going to fix the car? You don’t, either you do one straightforward thing, and that’s asked them to buy the recommendations that you’ve provided them. Why don’t we ask him to buy? It can be summed up in a pretty simple word rejection. If we don’t ask, they can’t reject us. If I spent time in repair shops all over the United States teach the service writers and service writer school and talk to shop owners, I think that is the number 1 fear the word know that keeps us from achieving the success we can. For those of you who have been in my seminars at some of the tradeshows have always been amazed at the fact that I get money from total strangers when I’m in the front of the class because I simply do one thing and that’s asked them for it. I do not know who is the richest or the poorest in the group. Recently at a tradeshow with about 100 people in a room, I ask who would give me money, who would give me $100. In 5 minutes, I had $406 in my hand. One of the attendees, who contributed money to me actually said to me I’m a teacher and I only have a dollar, will that work and I said absolutely I will take your dollar and as most of the people in this room sat silently wondering why these people were willing to give me money. I was just collecting money. So why did they give me money? I think it’s a factor of several things one its reputation, two I was confident and asking for and three I projected the perception of value. I have done this literally at dozens of repair trade shows all over North America, and I’ve never failed to have people hand me money. So, you got to ask yourself, why don’t you ask? The worst thing that happens is they say no and the best thing that happens is they give you money or in your case they buy services and products from you. If you ask and they refuse then the problem becomes theirs, not yours. Your liability drops drastically. The point of these messages simply is to do the primary job – inspect the car, write an estimate, communicate clearly with your customer and asked in the purchase what you recommend. The best case is they buy everything you recommended the worst case they don’t buy anything. Some cases there is an in-between which means you help them prioritize the list and work within their budget of money and time and you end up over the next several months repairing the list, making money and having a happy, satisfied customer who can happily refer more people to you.

I hear all the time from repair shop service writers, and owner’s people don’t have money, and that is an out and out misconception. The next time you’re on a three-day holiday weekend look around you look at the number of cars, motor homes, toys boats airplanes helicopters that are out there people have money, and they will spend the money on what they see as either want or need. As the car repair expert, it is your job to show the value of repairing their car

Please sit down and have a serious conversation with all of your team about our primary job, inspect the vehicle, write an estimate, talk to the customer about the needs and provide them with the best possible level of customer service. When they leave your facility to have peace of mind about their vehicle have confidence in their car and your reputation is well-established.

Posted: Jun. 27, 2019 Maylan Newton Guest Contributor
Maylan Newton

Maylan Newton has been the president and CEO of Educational Seminars Institute for the past 20 years. Maylan travels the country sharing the keys to being successful in the automotive repair industry today. With over 40 years of automotive and general business industry experience, Maylan Newton has literally been there and done that. From shop owner, technician, and service advisor to one of the most renowned industry trainers and speakers in the country, Maylan combines his real-world experience with profit building take-aways in a humorous and engaging manner that only Maylan can deliver.

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