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International Automotive Technicians Network
Posted to Shop Management Forum on 10/19/2013 26 Replies


What do consumers want? Isn't it a reasonable assumption to say that they all want the best quality at the lowest possible price, and they want convenience to boot? Well, I happen to think that that's a pretty reasonable assumption.

Now most of us here are probably familiar with this principle: "Good, fast, and cheap… Pick any two, but you can't have all three." I suspect that many (if not most) consumers understand this. They understand (deep down) that there's a correlation between quality, price, and convenience. They 'get' that the lowest price or the fastest service isn't necessarily the best deal. At the same time, however, quality and convenience at 'any price' may not be a bargain either.

So what do people want? In a word -- VALUE! And what is value? Quite simply it's the right balance of quality, price, and convenience.

Will everyone define that balance the same way? No. Social and economic differences (and perhaps other factors) will cause people to value products and services differently.

What does this mean to you as a business? What is your approach? How do you engage (or choose not to engage) with different people? Do you treat all people the same? If not, in what ways do you treat some differently, and how do you determine who's who?

Here's what I'm driving toward… When it comes to automotive maintenance and repair I believe that value is INITIALLY a function of trust. After the sale - after people see the result of the work, pay the bill, and experience the service, they'll decide how well their before-the-sale trust in you compares to the after-the-sale reality, BUT before the sale, trust in your value proposition is what converts a prospect to an actual customer.

So, as it relates to prospective customers, what's your best opportunity to convince someone of your value proposition?

Many think about the opportunity in terms of advertising. However, advertising in and of itself does not build value. What advertising does is provide you an opportunity for personal interaction, and it's through personal interaction where the real opportunity for establishing trust resides.

Let's look at this from another angle. Generally, what is your point of "first contact?" Isn't it the phone? In my experience most people call first as opposed to just showing up.

Now how many businesses spend money on ads designed to make the phone ring? Lot's right? Maybe you're one of them. And how many end up frustrated at the lack of calls that are converted to cars in the bay? Again, lots (maybe you're one of them).

What are the reasons for this? Many will say things like: The ad attracted the wrong people. These callers were nothing but a bunch of bottom feeding price shoppers, and they were never going to buy from us, no matter what.

Really, are you sure?

I've been around this a pretty long time. I spent several years in various positions where I was the one on the phone with these people. Since then, working as a trainer and consultant, I've observed many of these phone conversations up close and personal and have listened to a lot of recorded calls. One thing in particular is missing in those instances where the result of converting prospects to customers is less than stellar. In a word it's compassion.

Now there's a word that's sure to make some people uncomfortable, and some will no doubt say that compassion is irrelevant. Before you dismiss this, at least take a moment to understand what I'm saying.

Compassion doesn't mean that you're a bleeding heart. It doesn't mean that you're driven by emotion. It doesn't mean thinking that you owe anyone anything. It does mean, though, that you have a sincere desire to alleviate another's suffering. It means that you care.

Here's an example… Many in this business get hung up on the question of, "How much is it?" Rather than consider that on the other end of the phone is a human being - someone's husband or son, wife or daughter - that is suffering with a problem and has a need, and has called YOU to help relieve that suffering -- instead they think, "Oh great, another price shopping bottom feeder."

What about the person who calls and asks, "What's wrong with my car, it _____?" How many of you respond along the lines of, "I have no way of knowing until we get it in and check it out." Seriously! What kind of response is that? Maybe you're thinking, "It's a true response." Yes, it's true, but if you think this is a good answer, you're missing the point.

With perhaps a few exceptions such as the true DIY or the whacko cheapskate who's willing to drive 50 miles to save $1.50, most folks are looking for someone to do business with. They're looking for the right balance of quality, price, and convenience -- VALUE -- and if you're on the phone with them, they've COME TO YOU seeking that value.

Each phone call, by virtue of being a personal interaction, is a precious opportunity for you to establish trust, build value, and gain a competitive advantage.

Are you the right value proposition for every caller? No, not likely. Does that change the way you handle each call? What will be your attitude the next time you pick up the phone and someone asks, "How much is ____?" How will you go about answering that question?


Mark Hambaum
MDH Automotive Services
Richville, Michigan, USA

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