Don't Puke On The Customer

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BY NOW YOU PROBABLY HAVE YOUR spring cleaning done. You've cleaned out your wreck and take-off parts that were cluttering up the back room. You've installed shelving so you can stage P&A for customer jobs.

And you've identified and corrected behaviors that were wasting time or hurting business. Right?

I'm talking about behaviors like making the parts guys run back to service any time a customer asks, "What do you guys charge to install this?" Or the habit of installing different heads and cams and a different exhaust system on every performance job. Or the loose lips that scare off customers and kill sales. Here are some tips on how to improve on these bad behaviors:

Stop wasting time. Service should have an accessory menu that lists the charges for common accessory installations, and the service team should give a copy of it to the parts guys. Then parts can quote total cost at the counter while the customer is still excited about the product. You'll close more sales that way. Plus, your parts people will interrupt your service people less often, giving everybody more time to run their departments better.

Stop wasting money. To make a good profit doing performance work, your service department needs to be efficient. That starts by limiting choices to three or four performance packages for each model. Create a range of mild to wild at different price points. This makes it easy for the customer to decide and allows technicians to get efficient at the installation. Limit the number of exhaust choices to three or four good-performing systems for each model. Then document the carb settings or the map needed for EFI models and sell these performance kits over and over for an excellent profit. Seventy percent of your clientele will be happy with this variety of selection, and you can always charge "clock" time for the 30 percent who want a performance combo that's really unique.

Stop the negative talk. Look at the stock market as an example of how talk can affect what gets sold, and for how much. Stock experts have been talking doom and gloom over the last few months, predicting a recession. Guess what? Their prophecy came true: They scared off investors, shooting a good market in the foot and making matters worse than they might have been. Well, I ask you, are we talking our customers out of doing business with us? Do we spout off things like, "Business sucks," or "This product sucks," or spew profanity within the customer's range of hearing?

If you want to accelerate whatever downward business cycle your shop may go through this year, just puke all over customers with negative talk and punish them with abusive language. They won't come back, and the short-sighted prophecy of some will come true — business will suck, and we may be looking for new careers soon.

I've been in the powersports business for more than 35 years, and I've seen it go through adjustments before. You know what has kept many shops from going under, and even allowed some to grow, in a down market? A really good service department. One that did what it said it was going to do and that showed customers it cared by being respectful and maintaining a positive attitude. Now more than ever those in service need to be on their best behavior.

Here's how to behave in the company of customers:

  • When a customer asks, "How's business?" reply, "Good or steady" if you have any business at all and "Great!" if business is growing. Remember, customers want to do business with successful companies, not those acting like they'll close their doors tomorrow.
  • When a customer is within earshot, use respectful language. This is a sign of respect and gratitude for their business. A smile doesn't hurt either.
  • Never, ever talk badly about a product you sell or the manufacturer that makes it. In the customer's mind, you are the expert, and if you don't like what you sell, the customer won't want it either.

Most experts say this country will go through a recession this year. How badly it affects your shop is partly up to you. Fortunately, millions of powersports products are already on the road and trails, and all will require service and repair.

If you want your service department and the store to survive or even thrive in a down market, do the things that save customers time and money, and show them your gratitude by behaving respectfully and positively.