By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber
There is a good deal of talk in the news today, especially in the sports world about being suspended. We are not speaking about automotive suspensions, but rather major league baseball; 13 players suspended including the famous A-Rod.
Getting away from major league baseball, let’s look at our lives as automotive jobbers and counter professionals. We generally feel that our businesses function well and we service our commercial customers perfectly 99 percent of the time. Yet, we have always wondered why they seem only to remember that 1 percent of the time where everything does not go as planned. Somehow, I am certain that everything does not go as planned 100 percent of the time in any business.
So here we are, our customer Nick (could be any Nick) calls to order a part. He gets his prices, places his order, does not ask if the part is in stock or when he can expect his delivery. Well, the part was not in stock and we had to send a driver to the warehouse to get it to the store to be dispatched to Nick. Does any of this sound familiar?
Two hours later, Nick calls to check on his part, speaks to a second counterperson who informs him that the part was picked up at the warehouse and will be delivered to him shortly. Another half-hour goes by and again, Nick calls. This time you can hear his anger and almost see that vein on the side of his neck sticking out. A third counterperson places him on hold to inquire about his part; luckily while on hold, the part arrives.
While this was unfortunate it demonstrates a lack of communication. Meanwhile, back to Nick. For the next few days all went well with Nick, then again a similar situation occurs. This time Nick is not patient or polite in his response. He loudly announces, “YOU ARE NOW SUSPENDED!” The counterperson replies… what? Nick goes on, “which part of ‘you are suspended’ don’t you understand? I will not call or place any orders with your company for the next month. Tell that to my salesman and your boss.” Nick kept his word; we were suspended for a month (no calls or purchases) and no matter how many attempts were made by the salesperson or owner, this would not be changed.
Nick’s story is not an uncommon one perhaps not using those exact words, “You are suspended,” to drive home the point. How many times does a customer get upset because something does not go exactly as planned and then you do not hear from him for a few days? Most times, this is noticeable and should be of concern, especially if you know that your competition is out there always soliciting your accounts.
Having the parts in stock and letting the customer know (communication is key) will always be our primary function. Prompt delivery and courteous service with a fair price is next.
So, what about Nick? How could this suspension have been avoided?
It all comes down to communication. If Nick was told that his part had to be picked up, he might have scheduled a different job at that time and not had an issue waiting for the part. Never assume that the customer knows what we have to do to get any part to them. And by the way, how difficult do you think it was to get Nick’s business back after our one-month suspension?
We never did; our competition was right there.
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.