When I say that we can win over each of those tough customers in the same way, I say so from experience.
But as we’ll see, there’s more to this topic than just winning over tough customers, because the same things we do to help the individual tough customers are the things we can do to make real, lasting, sustainable changes in our shops that truly set us apart.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s look at these tough customers and how (and how not) to win them over.
“How Much Will A Water Pump Run Me?”
I saw a service writer training video recently on how to win over price shoppers. The advice? Lie to them. Trick them. Convince them that their repair might not be as bad as they think. Above all, get them into your shop. (Strangely enough, the video didn’t go on to cover what to do if that customer’s repairs were more than they originally thought.)
It’s patently bad advice, but there’s a nugget in there that I want to dig out: it’s easy to get burned out. When you’re on the front counter, dealing with tough customer after tough customer, it’s natural to want to get them off the phone and into the shop no matter what.
More than that, they’re looking for somebody who they can entrust with the safety, welfare and financial well-being of their family. Sure, the question may have been about the cost to do a water pump job, but the thought behind it was: “I’m trying to take care of my family’s finances.”
Now is the time to stand up for them.
At Keller Bros., I teach our service writers to think of their own grandmother. If she were in this situation, how would you want somebody to treat her?
The people we consider “tough customers” really just feel betrayed. I’m using the price shopper as the stand in so far, but it’s true of any of the tough customers that I brought up.
And viewed through that lens — this is somebody who needs our help, our respect, our care and attention and expertise because they’ve been betrayed before. It’s clear that the solution isn’t to lie to them or to get frustrated that they’re angry or to be annoyed that they’re looking for a price.
Consider this approach: put everything else to the side so you can focus 100% on that customer. Get everything that is between you and the customer out of the way — including the counter or even the phone. Don’t worry about the car or the money or anything else except: “there’s a person here in front of me who I am responsible for.”
Everything that comes next should flow from that place.
If the tough customer is a price shopper, offer genuine advice. What should they know about the job they’re asking about? What might they not typically think to consider when they’re choosing this job?
If they’re upset with the job you performed, learn why. This person can teach you better than anyone where you have a breakdown in your systems and processes. Be their advocate and let them teach you how to be better.
These same lessons apply even to the Yelp reviewer. Remove the obstacles, and move the conversation off-line and into your shop so there are no obstacles between you. And then listen to them and treat them the same way you’d want a service writer to listen to and care for your grandmother.
In part, I mean that this extends to all customers. It’s why we worry about hiring ASE-certified techs. It’s why we create procedures for proper inspections and hold the team accountable. It’s why we set clear policies on adjusting parts pricing so that one unlucky out-of-towner doesn’t get raked over the coals in the name of hitting our parts gross profit target.
But it’s bigger even than being responsible for our customers.
Being responsible to the people who trust us is why, at Keller Bros., we set targets for our team and measure them daily. Our employees trust us to run a profitable business and to protect them against bad employees who might otherwise try to sabotage our mission.
That’s your winning difference.