Like father, like son (Part II)

Suburban Overland Park, Kansas, sometimes seems a world away from my rural hometown—but when it comes to automotive customer service, the principles for success remain unchanged. Here is more from the New Concept Auto Service manual about how we make sure our customers’ needs are met.

Ask for the work

Once the estimate has been presented, it is up to the customer to decide. Should the customer hesitate or would like to think about it, ask a few questions. Questions like, “Is there anything you would like me to explain further?” or “Would you like me to fax or email a copy of the estimate?” These questions usually lead to a decision one way or the other quickly. Sometimes a customer is not sure how much to do, if anything, and will ask for advice. Remind them the labor functions are in order of initial concern, safety, reliability and scheduled maintenance. Advise them to go in that order of importance. Should a customer question the quality, depending on the situation, recite the mission statement and explain the technicians’ credentials. All this will build value in the decision they make. Should a customer question the price or the schedule, simply restate the price and schedule already stated. Say thank you.

Ask again

When a customer arrives to pick up their vehicle, this is a good time to find out a little more about the person.

Always start by asking, “How was your day?” Once again, listen and make only positive comments. The repair order will list what was done and the price.

Ask the customer to read it, encourage them to ask any questions and to sign the bottom. Once payment has been received and you are handing them the keys, mark the repair order paid. This is a good time to quickly go over the future needs of the vehicle as listed. When done ask if they would like to make an appointment for anything in the future, including an oil change. Try to refer to the personal item noted previously in the process. Say thank you.

Dad’s principles

My dad was following the same principles all along. I was too young at the time to recognize what he was doing, but I get it now. Going to the café in the morning was him building rapport and gathering information about what the farmers wanted. It was his sales call. He would make notes in the little notebook outside in the truck before we left the parking lot. This was initial greeting, what they want and who they are steps.

He would invite the farmers to come by the shop. Once they made it into his office he went through the what I can do step. I was not privy to what transpired in the office, but he gave pretty good word pictures, described things with his hands, and used colorful brochures. One could sense when Dad entered the ask for the sale step, because the laughter would subside and the two would be hunched over some numbers on the desk with a calculator handy. One of the biggest joys for me was the look on Mother’s face when the laughter would start again, the two would stand up and shake hands and Dad would come out with papers in hand.

This process is what works for my business today, though I am constantly looking for ways to improve. The fundamentals have been the same for centuries, though many businesses do not practice any of them. The very core of the successful customer service process and long term relationship lies in the ability to make another person feel good about what they are doing. So long as you are honest and ethical, there is nothing wrong with that. It is good business.

And, as Dad always said, don’t forget to say thank you.

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Customer Service
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