The Art of Identifying Customer Types

Dec. 1, 2023
Understanding personalities and evaluating needs.

The dizzying number of different vehicles on the road today is probably outnumbered by the sheer multitude of people-and-personality makes and models you’ll find out there. And while the automobiles can be tuned up and lubed to run right, humans, on the other hand, are much more temperamental.

So, just as shop owners, managers, and technicians need ongoing training to successfully service all types of sophisticated vehicles, they also need training to deal with complex customer personality types.

Consider what follows to be a crash course.

Recognize these familiar faces?

Mark Seawell, director of service advisor training at the Institute for Automotive Business Excellence in Ogden, Utah, teaches service advisors to identify four main types of customer personalities, using what he calls the DISC personality profile scale.

The first type, D, is made up of Dominant people. “These are Type A, getter-doners, and they want to be treated a certain way,” Seawell describes. “They like it when people give them authority.”

In making a service presentation to this type of customer, Seawell advises, “You need to be short, quick, and brilliant as a salesperson, and then you need to be gone. Be exact.”

The next type, I, is Influential – and as an aside, they may also be irritating. “They always have a goofy smile on their face,” Seawell notes. “They’re impulsive and you have to guide them down the right path.”

All an Influential personality type really wants is to be able to trust the person who’s making the presentation to them. “They don’t care about details most of the time,” Seawell adds.

The “S” in DISC stands for Steady. According to Seawell, this person is stable, sincere, and slow to react. “They mostly care about everyone else around them,” he notes.

As such, a Steady personality type might say, “I need to make sure I have my car back so I can pick up the kids from school” or “take my mom to the doctor.”

Seawell says, “These are the lovers of the group. They drive a minivan they can fit a lot of people in[side].”

The final main personality type according to the DISC scale is Compliant, or C.

“Nobody but a Compliant person understands a Compliant person,” Seawell says. “They’re CEOs and engineers and they want to do their own research, and they need data to make a decision.”

They will only make a decision, however, if you give them a deadline, the trainer finds. These people are conscientious and careful.

“They can come off as condescending and they’re not,” Seawell adds. “They’re just constantly trying to figure things out and totally understand them before they make a decision.”

In real-world application, Roneil Prash, owner and operator of Chevron xpress lube in Cypress, Texas, says no matter what personality type a service advisor is dealing with, one particular caveat remains the same.

“You’ve got to be patient with customers, all the time,” Prash states.

A mixed bag of tricks and tools

While there is truth to the existence of these four personality types, it’s also true that everyone has some percentage of all these personalities within their makeup.

“Some people have more of one or two [of the four],” Seawell finds. “But the key is, once you understand who you are on the chart, you can understand what you need to modify to interface with the others.”

In essence, by understanding the DISC personality types, including one’s own, a quick lube service advisor will be able to communicate and connect with their customers better and “in the way they want to be connected to,” as Seawell puts it.

As an example, if a sales advisor is speaking to a person with a highly Influential personality type, or High I, and the presentation gets too detailed, the High I will get bored. They don’t want to hear all the details.

If a customer’s personality type is not readily apparent, though, how do you figure out who you’re dealing with?

Seawell says the answers lie in questions – both in listening to the types of questions a person is asking you, as a service advisor, and in asking them questions so you can listen to their responses and get a clear read.

For example, a highly Compliant person, or C personality type, is going to ask “why” and “how” questions. Prash finds that as he provides information to this personality type, as well as others with some degree of C, their appreciation swells and their trust increases.

“I try to give the customer the etiquette of [knowing] what’s going on with their car,” Prash notes. “Customers appreciate that. They tell me that they go other places and don’t get this.”

A highly Stable personality type, or High S, on the other hand, might ask questions centered around how long it will be before they can get their car back.

“An S person wants to go do the things they had planned,” Seawell explains.

Of special note, sometimes an Influential personality type, or High I, impulsive as they may be, can turn into a tough customer in the face of a problem with their vehicle or their service.