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A friend called me the other day
Posted to Shop Management Forum on 6/7/2015 31 Replies

I'd never met her before, didn't know who she was or even anything about her.

The call started out with, "How much to fix a squeal noise when I start the car cold?" It was a classic price shopper phone call.

In many shops, this type of call starts red lights flashing, the loud buzzers going off, a computer voice sternly announcing danger and the Captain alerting everyone to Dive! Dive! Dive! Sand bags are quickly stacked around the front door and barbed wire is rapidly dispatched to discourage these intruders.

I know that many industry experts say that you should NEVER give a price over the phone. You have to get them into the shop first.

When I stand and look at this from a distance, what I see is an underlying message of distrust. We shouldn't give a price because we apparently can't trust the caller to be sane and rational when they arrive? We can't trust the customer to accept the honesty of their situation when it may turn out that what they asked for won't fix the car?

So, I'm supposed to shuck and jive them with all sorts of explanations as to why I won't give them a price? I can't really tell them that I can't give a price because I don't trust them to make a rational decision as to who they will ultimately trust to service their car?

I don't look at a price shopper phone call as a threat. I look at a price shopper phone call as an opportunity to make a new friend. They are shopping. I have stuff to sell. If what they want is what I've got, it's up to me to make it as easy as possible for them to give me their money.

I'm actually very upfront with everyone about this fact. When asked if they can pick up a car after hours, I reply that they can do whatever they want. I want to make it easy to take your money. Want to pay be credit card? I take it over the phone. Want to pay by check after hours? Drop it in the slot in the door. Same with cash.

Since I'm more than willing to trust them to pay, they become comfortable to trust me to treat them right.

This price shopping stuff isn't about price at all. It's an exercise in trust. It's an opportunity to find people who want to do business with each other and see if there's a mutual fit.

As a matter of fact, it's my opinion that most price shoppers aren't really price shopping at all. I believe they're looking for a friend.

But, I digress... :)

So, this woman calls and asks how much to fix a noise on a cold start? She was nice, I was nice. My classic response to all price questions was, "So, what's going on? What do you drive?"

I need this information in order to provide a price quote. I nearly always give out prices on the phone.

She had a Lexus SUV, her Dad had already replaced the serpentine belt and there was a squeal noise when started.

I engaged her in friendly conversation, said it could be as simple as a loose belt, which might be quickly tightened to fix her concern. I went on to say that it could be something else, but it shouldn't take much time to use a listening device to isolate the noise.

I said that I could provide her with some information, or possibly even fix it, for XX. I quoted the time to tighten a belt.

I then proceeded to use the "assumptive close", in which you assume they'll bring the car in, since they have a car that needs attention and you fix cars. :) I asked when she'd like to get the car in, I offered to do it tomorrow morning.

We had a nice exchange, she dropped off the car. It was a loose belt, we tightened it for exactly what I'd quoted.

We also discussed other needs of the car for future visits. She shook my hand and said she'd be back often. We're now friends. We trust each other.

Every time my phone rings, it's a potential friend. It's never a threat. Just because the occasional caller may be looking for the lowest possible price doesn't mean we're a match. It certainly doesn't mean I shouldn't tell them what I think it will take to fix their concerns.

I've had many callers tell me that I was more helpful than anyone else they called. I've had many end up at my shop and I know for a fact that I wasn't the lowest price they got.

Answering the phone is nothing more than sifting through potential prospects to see how many friends you can find. Real friends will spend money at your shop, even when they might find the job for less elsewhere, because they trust you.

Trust starts with telling the truth and trusting others. Even strangers on the phone. :)

I hope this is helpful to some.

Becky from Nebraska

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