I am a teacher, first and foremost. Not a teacher in a classroom (though I have done that too) but a consumer educator. As I watch my industry peers sell, one thing separates the successes from the failures: customer perspective.
It is true that confidence is key in closing sales and overconfidence can be deadlier than ignorance.
Most customers don’t come to my shop because they can do the repair themselves but choose not to. They come to my shop because they have little to no idea what the issue is. In fact, a good portion of customers can’t begin to explain the symptoms their vehicle is having.
It is little surprise then that they take every word from my mouth with a grain of salt. Some are even downright hostile. Their vision of the auto repair industry is that of a bunch of sharks circling a wounded seal.
Know your customer
One thing I realized early on is that most customers have zero ideas about their vehicles. They don’t stop for a second to consider proper maintenance outside of the wipers, headlights and air conditioning.
Some don’t even notice when the entire wiper has been torn from the blade. It is like trying to use a squeegee with nothing but the handle to do the job. Yet, when I point this out the look I get is the same as if I were telling them that a person on the other side of the world had a tick. Oblivious.
No wonder they don’t change their brake fluid. They may have never considered that there is such a thing. For all they know, it could be right there on the shelf next to the blinker fluid and to the left of the muffler bearings.
What many of them do consider is that the industry is rife with stories of victimization. They will turn a blind eye to a significant safety issue in favor of not looking like a dope or a fool by being taken advantage of.
The victimhood mentality
Our industry has a significant lack of consumer education and outreach. This is the space I operate in daily. My job as a service advisor is to flip that customer so that instead of making decisions from a position of fear they make them from a position of power.
Having your back to the wall will make you angry and afraid. You are one subtle hint away from slipping into the victimhood mentality. Once there it is hard to get back.
Consider that brake fluid again. A lot of mechanics don’t give it a second thought. At my shop when we pull fluid samples we test the brake fluid for copper contamination with a strip which turns from white through deeper shades of purple.
Putting it in layman’s terms
My sales approach looks like this:
Mr. Customer, when we tested the brake fluid we noticed a problem. Fresh brake fluid looks like new motor oil. Yours is turning green.
Brake fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere the same way salt does on the frame of your car. It sucks that moisture down inside your brake lines which are lined with copper.
When we tested the fluid it tested positive for high concentrations of free copper which means that your brake lines are rusting on the inside.
Have you ever seen a penny turn blue/green in a fountain? That same thing is happening inside your brake lines. We need to get that old contaminated fluid out and go back with fresh fluid which won’t let those lines continue to rust.
Notice the pattern?
I tie something they know nothing about to something they do. Most people know salt is bad for cars and should be washed off to prevent rust.
I take that comparison and explain how brake fluid works, how we test it and most importantly, how we move forward with making sure we stop the problem before it starts.
In the end
Providing a customer with information they can understand and use is empowering. Empowered people aren’t easily turned into victims. They make purchasing decisions from a position of strength instead of weakness. They are less reluctant and more satisfied with the repair.
JJ is a Service Advisor in a full-service shop. He brings a solid understanding of complex systems down to earth for customers who are shy about dealing with the automotive industry.
A teacher at heart, he believes that customers are most satisfied when they understand the issue and the path forward. This results in customers making purchasing decisions from a position of power instead of fear and reluctance. He also enjoys quiet activities like non-traditional board games, reading, YouTube, sarcasm and collecting pre-loved cars the rest of us call ugly junk.