Article > Opinion

Reality: No Life at the Beach

By Mitch Schneider

Everyone knows that making assumptions can lead to problems, especially in the business world, when it can cost you time and money.
Mitch Schneider

It never fails to amaze me that much of what we know is based upon stuff that we think we know, but aren’t really 100 percent sure of. Nevertheless, we plow straight ahead as if everything we know is carved in stone, when in fact, it’s more likely cast in sand. Too often, it seems that what we know is nothing more or less than a complicated, yet fairly comprehensive set of suppositions.

Scientists call these suppositions “paradigms.” You and I would probably be more comfortable calling them “assumptions.” Jane Wagner referred to them as “a collective hunch.” Regardless of what they’re called, assumptions that are accepted blindly as or in place of reality, are nothing if not self-destructive —  especially when they relate to you and me and the relationship we share.

I’d like to paint a brief picture of what life is really like for the majority of your customers: A look at the world they confront every day and why they may sometimes appear more distracted or less involved than you would like.

First, the majority of shops you serve are marginal. If 20 percent of your customers are exceptional, 80 percent are not. Even if they understand the need for high-touch customer service, they may not be profitable enough to sustain it. Consequently, the shop owner may be the only person left to deal with your programs and promotions and/or his customers and customer service. That means they must interact with the customer, technicians, the vehicle and you simultaneously.
Parts orders are incomplete or ordered incorrectly because there is no time to confirm that the information is correct. Cores and credits go unresolved because there is no one to ensure they have been returned or resolved. Vehicles leave the shop with lists of services that have been identified, recommended, perhaps even estimated, but never presented to the customer for fear the customer might actually say, “Yes.” And that of course, would destroy whatever illusion of a schedule the shop owner might still be clinging to.

Fear and ignorance — a dangerous combination in the best of circumstances — drive shop owners to price parts and labor below what they believe is the threshold created by local dealerships and key independent shops in their areas. Realistically, however, no one actually takes the time to confirm whether or not that perception is accurate. Too many service dealers believe the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is inviolate and as a result, margins are too often inadequate to sustain a viable business.

By 10 o’clock in the morning, most shops and shop owners are under siege, or at least that’s the way it feels. If this is something you have experienced for yourself, I apologize. But, I have to ask: What have you done about it? 

If this is your first time you’ve been confronted with information like this, I have some different questions: What will you do about it? What will you do to make things better?
After all, if you are going to base your reality on a ‘collective hunch,’ it might as well be an accurate one.

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