Running a Shop

Protect Your Customers’ Investments and Help Prevent Breakdowns

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Are you helping prevent breakdowns? An automobile is essentially a collection of systems. These various systems each need to be in good running condition. At the heart of it is the engine with its exhaust system. Then there is the drivetrain, the cooling system (including heating and air conditioning), brake system, steering and suspension and, like the human nervous system, the electrical system with all its connectors — sensors. All of the above must be in good condition.

Not everyone is interested in how cars work any more than they want to know how email works. Most people know, however, that cars are more expensive to fix after there’s a problem than before. The very fact that they bring their cars to you for an oil change lets you know that they trust you and at least care about the basics.

Once in the shop, it gives you and your team an opportunity to catch signs of other things that need attention before they become more serious. Whether it is our health, cars or relationships, most problems begin small. So the question is, are you helping your customers save money? Are you helping prevent breakdowns?

Other than periodically checking oil levels, the oil change is a car owner’s most frequent maintenance task. Even though oil changes need to be taken care of at regular intervals, people often avoid them in the same way they avoid going for regular checkups at the doctor. This is where you win by paying attention to other “little things” that will save customers money in the long-run.

Being in the industry, you already know the benefits of maintenance. Vehicles are more reliable when maintained, last longer, operate more efficiently and are safer. And, as noted, it saves car owners money by protecting their investments. Your job then, should you choose to accept it, is to monitor the condition of your customers’ vehicles.

In other words, take the time to pay attention to your customers’ cars; you have an opportunity to note areas that need attention. Whether you have a 10-, 15- or 21-point (inspection) scorecard, it is good to have a checklist that is easy to use, so you can quickly assess the level of need. Here are a few of the items you will want on that list: Note any drips or leaks while underneath. Check the air filter, breathers, PCV valve, wiper blades, coolant fill tank, brake and power steering fluid levels, windshield fluid and tire pressure. Visually note the condition of the battery cable ends, hoses and belts.

You’ll also want to pay attention to any unusual noises as you bring the car in. Whines and screeches under the hood can be a sign of low steering fluid or belts needing attention. Scraping or grinding noises can signal that the brakes pads are worn. Some people are not in the habit of checking oil between oil changes, and you can hear the lifters clattering. (They need to be reminded that motor oil may need topping off from time to time.) Many sounds of trouble will not be apparent until the car is out on the road, which is why ASE mechanics test-drive the vehicles they work on.

There’s another reason why it is good to help your customers take care of preventative maintenance. Whenever people have something taken care of by someone else, whether it be car maintenance or home maintenance – like fixing a furnace or plumbing system – the one thing they are thinking in the back of their minds, but seldom tell you, is, “Don’t mess me up.”

We’ve all been there. And if something unfortunate happens to that car two hours or two days after they had it in to your shop, whose fault will it be? They will recall that you were the last person to look under that hood. You did nothing wrong, but was there something you noticed? Maybe you were in a hurry because you didn’t want to keep other customers waiting.

So, your 15- or 20-point check also serves as a form of insurance. When you go the extra mile for your customers, they will feel reassured you’ve done your part and shown you care about their needs as much as they do.

Your customers buy from you because they trust you. Bruce Rauner, American businessman and current governor of Illinois, said, “Business is about people, and your reputation is built on how you treat people.” So, go the extra mile, take care of your customers and protect their investments.

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