I WAS REMINDED last week that there are some things we just shouldn’t say — unless we don’t mind pissing off customers and driving business away. This was prompted by a conversation with a mechanic who was working on a vintage muscle car I own when out of nowhere, he just blurted out, “By the way, your carburetor is junk!”
To me, when somebody makes a statement like that it’s like getting slapped in the face. It’s shocking and offensive. In this case, upon further investigation I came to understand that the idle mixture problem that caused him to make this derogatory remark could be easily fixed with a set of softer primary metering rod springs. Consequently, there was no good reason for his inconsiderate outburst.
We all do it. Without malice we blurt something that offends or insults the very people we are trying to attract to our stores and cultivate into loyal customers. The following are some of the things I’ve heard, or even said myself, and some alternatives to go along with them.
“We don’t work on junk.” This is usually in response to a vehicle in poor condition. That’s like calling their baby ugly, and it’s a sure way to alienate customers. I know; I did something like that when I was a service manager. The customer got so mad we almost ended up in a fist fight. Try saying this instead: “There are a limited number of services we can perform on your vehicle,” and then relate what you can do, even if it’s as minor as a tire change on the wheel assembly after the customer removes it from the bike himself.
“Wrong!” Hey, nobody likes to hear this, even if we know it’s true. Instead, when confronted with a customer who makes a statement we don’t agree with, we should get into the habit of saying something like, “That’s an interesting idea. Here’s another way to look at it,” and then relate what we believe to be the case.
“Don’t waste your time unloading that thing!” Say that, and the word thing will bounce off the customer’s brain like a ping-pong ball in a lottery tumbler. He’ll not only be angry, but he’ll remember that word forever.
Ask yourself, what kind of reputation are we trying to create, one of customer service or one of customer resistance? You’ll encounter vehicles that are not what you want to repair due to condition, brand, age or a combination, but there’s never a good reason to insult the customer. Try saying something like, “Before you go to the trouble of unloading your vehicle, let me take a look at it and discuss what you want us to do.” If you feel the bike is not a good fit for your service department, then recommend another shop for them.
“No!” In all of its forms and in all of its variations, “no” should be avoided. Here’s an example: At the parts counter, it’s not uncommon for customers to ask for a discount or price match. Unfortunately, a lot of folks on the business side of the counter are offended by that request and reply tersely, “We don’t do discounts.” Problem is, if the customer feels challenged or embarrassed by that reply, they may decide to take their business elsewhere — maybe not today, but possibly in the future.