Shop Life Columnists

The Guest Experience

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Guess what? You are dirty, uneducated and rip everyone off—at least that is how some guests view the preventative maintenance industry. And why not? You cannot seem to touch the underside of a hood without getting grime on your hands. That transfers to the computer, paperwork and every door and door frame touched. You do not need an ASE mechanics certificate to pull an oil plug or perform a fuel injection cleaning. You focus on universal metrics of ticket averages, premium mixes and ancillary sales percentages to ensure you can pay the bills.  

To fill your shop’s labor force, you look for the person who prefers a dirty hand over a cleanly typed analytics report made in a cubicle (those are my kind of people there!). You bring in a white board and make a grid showing all the important sales per day targets needed and you send your team out to make it happen using handouts, fluid sample sheets, and scripted sales tactics expecting the guest to open their checkbooks to your pitch.

The challenging realization is that your guest has usually made up his or her mind before you ask, “Can I take care of this today?” It has been determined based on budget and tolerance and perception. The good news is that we can generally move these roadblocks if we can show a true value to a visit. 

Gain Understanding

Budgets of vehicle maintenance are usually not written into the household as a line item. While there may be an allowance of fuel, there is generally not the same for an unexpected air filter, transmission service, or other service. When you don’t plan for additional items, you are more likely to reject them. There are two ways to get through this obstacle. Show value of how this part is going to save them money in the long run (fuel economy services and parts failure costs). Or you can allow them to budget for the future services—also known as next time.

Next time can be a scary scenario, as it gives your guest the time to reconsider the purchase or shop around. This also does not put dollars in the bank or check off that item from your white board. We do need to remember that we are preventative maintenance shops. Many items the guest can feel like can wait, we should educate them on the need and not push them for the ticket average.  

It’s much more important to focus on the perception of the experience. Many people relate the experience to going to the dentist (but the dentist office is much cleaner). If you anticipate a bad environment and you receive your anticipation, chances are you are looking to get out of that situation as soon as possible. Adding additional services only increases the aggravation fears that have been built up and justified on these visits.  How can we ease the frustration? Be what they didn’t expect! 

Is your waiting room clean? If you are a drive-thru, are the shop bays clean? Chances are that you are going to say yes because you work there. Since you work there, you are used to the environment and the gradual degradation of the atmosphere. 

Consider you have not seen a child for a few months. When you do see the kid, you are alerted to the changes so much that you comment, “She is getting so big!” Yet the parent is not as shocked as they see it every day and may be less alert to the changes. The same holds true for your shop as the white, drop-in ceiling tiles become yellow. The sharp posters displaying important information about services become hazy. The floors are now grimy because the new guy used the shop mop in the waiting room one too many times. Who wants to sit in that condition? Not your guest. 

Are you pressuring your guests? I am not referring to the service review speech, but are they sitting there listening to everyone else’s sales pitch in the waiting room just waiting for someone to call out their name holding a filter and a clipboard. The chatter that goes on after you leave the waiting room can negatively prepare your guest for their turn. The old guy sitting in the chair, drinking coffee and telling everyone, “you don’t need that," is there. Ironically, he is using your services, but feasts off of sharing his perceptions to your other guests. Can you check in with the customer somewhere else? By the car, outside the bay, at the front counter in a soft voice?  

I will leave you with this until next month. Most of your challenges do not live in procedures, but rather in the cultures you have built. To be continued! 

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