Here are lessons to be learned about the auto parts business in lots of different places. Heres a "fictional" account about a friend of mine, which just might shed some light on a universal truth about the auto parts business.
This make-believe friend of mine has a significant other who has a checkbook balancing problem like the Detroit Lions has a football playing problem. Lets just say that revolving credit, when left unchecked, can make ones credit rating sound like a toilet flushing – with about the same results.
This friend had a long list of creditors to which he ended up owing a lot of money to because Wisconsin is a "marital property" state, which means that you have no control over the spending habits of your spouse; however, you are completely responsible for the outcome.
In an attempt to retire one specific debt to a certain unnamed credit card company, my friend rang them up, and informed the "customer service" representative of his intention to pay off the balance. Heres how the conversation unfolded:
- Customer Service: Whats the account number?
- Friend: I dont have that in front of me, but I want to pay off the balance.
- Customer Service: Im sorry sir, but I cant give you that number because the account is not under your name.
- Friend: I know the account isnt under my name. I dont want to use the account. However, it showed up on my credit report, and I just want to pay off the balance.
- Customer Service: Im sorry sir, but we have privacy laws to be concerned with.
- Friend: Okay, but the credit report says the account is closed.
- Customer Service: Yes, the account has been closed due to lack of payment.
- Friend: There! The account is closed, and even if I did want to use the account (which I dont) I couldnt because the account is closed. All I want to do is pay off the balance.
- Customer Service: Im sorry sir but there are privacy laws. Is there anything else I can help you with?
- Friend: What do you mean is there anything else you can help me with? You havent helped with anything yet!
What my friend learned in the process of trying to retire this debt, is that, more than money, you need persistence. Isnt it amazing that you need to be persistent when trying to give someone money?
So my friend called back and tried another approach.
- Customer Service: How can I help you?
- Friend: Please take my money!
- Customer Service: What?
- Friend: Thats right – please take my money. Heres the name, address, phone number, etc. I owe you $848.50. Please take my money.
- Customer Service: Im sorry sir, I cant do that.
- Friend: Okay, Ill tell you what. Ill give you an extra $100 if you take my money right now.
- Customer Service: Sir, I cant do that.
- Friend: $200.
- Customer Service: Sir, you dont understand we have procedures…
Around and around they went. In the end, the debt was paid off, but only after it was turned over to a collections agency (which cost my friend another $50). My friend may be the only person in the history of credit card payment who was turned over to collections while actively trying to pay his bill.
What does this have to do with selling auto parts? The words manufacturer, warehouse distributor, jobber, dealer or retail customer have not been used until now. Theres been no mention of disc pads, ball joints or rotors. Even so, this has everything to do with selling auto parts.
Customers and prospects come to us every day, and while they may not say, "Please take my money," they do call us on the phone, walk into our stores and allow us into their repair shops time and time again.
How easy and enjoyable do we make it for our customers to do business with us? How difficult and unpleasant do we make it for our customers to do business with us at times? Everything we do either adds to or detracts from the shopping experience for our customers.
I read somewhere that a mall in Canada scented the air and ended up doubling the average ticket.
My friend and I are willing to bet they didnt scent the air with cigarette smoke.