In America, many times this is true. Image is everything. Many people think, “If I’m doing a great job, why does it matter how I look?” In America, right or wrong, it matters. Perception is the first half of the battle for business you must fight every day. Envision this scenario: A car breaks down on the highway and two tow-trucks arrive simultaneously to the rescue. Both trucks are in excellent working condition and are equipped to handle any roadside emergency. One has compartments for tools, the other keeps tools in the front seat. One driver gets out of the cab and he’s wearing a uniform with the company name and his own name on the shirt. The other driver gets out, flicks a cigarette to the grass, and tucks his 3 Doors Down T-shirt into his jeans. Which one would your spouse choose? Which one would you choose to represent yourself and your business? Everything else being equal, I think we all know the answer.
But in this industry, I have to question the whole “image thing.” Have we grown up yet? The automotive industry is more than 100 years old. It’s about time we act like grownups and conduct ourselves accordingly. Part of this grownup behavior is to look, as well as act, like professionals. To the consumer, the way you look, the way your shop looks and the way your technicians look, speaks as loudly as how well you repair vehicles. Perception is everything.
There is serious discussion about the image of the technician going on at your national association level. One question being raised is this, “Is there a negative perception of the technician, or is there a negative perception of the repair experience?”
That’s a great question, and on the surface it seems like it would help industry leaders align resources to the right direction (if they could come up with a coherent answer). But I think the average consumer doesn’t make that distinction. I think the consumer blurs the image of the technician in with the image of the shop. The human brain is designed to fill in the blanks. For instance, if you see the word “tho,” your brain fills it in and it becomes “though.” I would say customers in your shop react the same way to your service counter. If you consider your shop’s appearance honestly, it probably reflects the state of your technicians’ appearance. If the shop and service counter are clean and tidy, there’s a good chance so are your technicians and their work areas. If the shop and service area are looking a little gritty around the edges, the average consumer might think twice before paying for the skills of your technician. Even if the service counter and the actual shop floor are worlds apart in appearance; in the customer’s mind, there is no distinction between the two work areas. It works similarly with the individual appearance of the people with whom they have contact in your place of business. What they see out front is similar to what they imagine the shop looks like inside, and this reflects on you. Whether we like it or not, appearances are often the first thing a consumer considers when making a purchase — whether it’s deciding where to have an oil change performed, or where they get their tires rotated and balanced.
I think the average consumer considers a few other things when they need their vehicle repaired or some preventive maintenance performed:
Previous association with the repair shop: was it good, bad or indifferent? Good keeps customers coming back most of the time. Great or excellent keeps them coming back, and they usually tell friends about you. Was their association with your shop bad or indifferent? They’re probably not coming back. Change your ways or close your shop. You won’t be around in five years.
Friends’ recommendations: If they’re new to the area or new car owners, a lot of times people will ask friends. Do you have a solid bank of loyal customers? If you do, now might be the time to institute a “frequent buyer” club, or offer a special service whenever they refer a friend. This keeps your loyal customers coming back, and new customers flowing in.
Emergency repair or scheduled maintenance: If it’s an emergency repair, a lot of times the consumer will choose between a dealership (if the car is about 5 years old or less) or the closest repair shop within towing distance. Make sure their experience is a great one for the emergency repair, and they’ll start coming to you for scheduled maintenance. Remember, yours is a PLACE OF BUSINESS. It’s how you and many others earn a living. You have a right to be proud of the services you perform. You can solve problems that stump other minds. You can bring the dead back to life! But, if your appearance is a little shabby and your attitude is a little negative, odds are you’ll be looking for a lifeline sooner rather than later. As I said at the beginning, image is everything. If they can’t see past your image, they’ll never know how good you are, and how much you can help them.
If you have a story to tell about your technician(s) or shop image, please send it to me at [email protected]. All other comments or concerns are also welcome.