Are You A Counterman Or A Professional Counterman?


Preparation starts as soon as you wake up and begin getting ready for work. Before you leave, take a look in the mirror; this is what your customers will see. Are you satisfied?

By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber

Joe works for a local auto parts store. Most days Joe is only 5 to 15 minutes late, unshaven, clothes wrinkled and his personality reflects his appearance. When confronted by his manager he answers “I’m here, better late than never.” After a few minutes and his first coffee Joe finally decides to start working. He answers the phone after six or seven rings in a rushed voice. Joe says, “Right Part Auto.” After a somewhat long pause, he again speaks loudly into the phone, “Right part Auto,” this time there is a reply.

He hears, “I need a widget for an ’08 Toyota,” and without giving it much thought or asking for additional information, Joe simply replies, “We don’t have it, can’t help you” and hangs up.

Next, Joe decides he will wait on the customer who walked in to purchase brake pads for his Ford pickup. This time, Joe asks basic questions — year, make, model and nothing else. Joe looks on the computer goes in the back and comes back with a set of brake pads. He completes the sale and the customer leaves, and, of course, two hours later this customer is back — wrong pads. Joe again looks up the pads and replies that they should be correct. “Are you giving me the right information?” This is finally sorted out and the customer leaves.

The day goes on and similar phone and counter situations happen. Joe is an individual who comes to work for a paycheck with little enthusiasm, answers the phone, waits on customers, does what is asked and no more. Fortunately, Joe is a fictional person and no professional counterman is like our “Joe.”

What is a professional counterman? Certainly not “Joe.”

Preparation starts as soon as you wake up and begin getting ready for work. Before you leave, take a look in the mirror; this is what your customers will see. Are you satisfied? Will they think you are well groomed and appropriately attired? First impressions: remember you do not get a second chance!

How you present yourself next helps achieve the desired result, a profitable sale and a satisfied customer. Do you say “good morning?” And, if you know the customer’s name, use it!

Ask all pertinent questions; do not skip any selling steps. If the customer does not have the answer, tell them how they can find it, or better yet, actually assist them. Remember, the more you do to help a customer become a satisfied customer comes back to you tenfold in word-of-mouth referrals. Once the sale has been made simply thank the customer for their business and let them know you will be there the next time they need you.

Telephone customers need to be treated the same: Remember how you sound paints a picture of you to the customer. There is actually such a thing as body language over the phone! Answer the phone professionally, “Good morning, Right Part Auto, Steve speaking. How may I help you?”

If you have to place a customer on hold ask if it is ok to do so and give an estimated time that you will be able to return to the call. If this is not acceptable, ask if it would be ok for you to call back as soon as you finish with the customer you are helping? Make sure to ask appropriate questions to identify all of the proper parts necessary to complete the job. Once the customer places the order, simply say “thank you, appreciate your business, speak to you again soon.”

Yes, we know this takes practice but once customer basics are mastered both you and your company will profit.

For more information, go to: or e-mail

Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber operate Auto Biz Solutions, which provides training, marketing, management and business consulting services to both the automotive jobber and independent repair shop.

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