Early in my career in the automotive repair business, I worked in “full service” gas stations. I remember the owner of one of those had the message “Customers’ View–Be Sharp!” displayed on a mirror where we washed our hands. It was there as a reminder to make sure we were presentable when we waited on our customers. That message has really stuck with me over my many years in this business.
The way that we present our businesses and ourselves to our customers is something that we all need to keep in mind, every day. First impressions are important.
I am constantly amazed at the places I visit how well some do and how poorly others do. It is difficult to keep the proper perspective on the image of your store when you are there every day; some things just seem to blend in. I would like to talk about some of the things that I have seen and heard that may not represent your business very well to your customers.
Let us begin by talking about the service department, since all of my time has been spent there. I know the first thought from many people would be, “Customers are not allowed in my service department.” I know that under normal circumstances they are not, but as a technician and as a manager I have had to take customers back at times to show them something under their cars while it is up in the air. What about the customer that is looking at cars and wants to look at the shop when it is closed? I have certainly seen many opportunities for image improvement. Take a walk around your service department and look a little closer at things. Do your employees represent your “brand image”? Does everyone that should be wearing a uniform have a clean one on? Can employees be identified with their name on their shirt or a name tag? It should be easy for anyone to identify an employee and what his or her name is. If someone is wearing a cap, does it represent your store or product line or what beer he drinks? People pay a lot of attention to the little things.
Take a walk through your service department and observe. Do the technicians have stickers on their tool boxes? Do they say things that you are comfortable with or want your customers to see? I have personally seen many that I find offensive throughout my many years in service. Would these be something that you would want a family with children to see if you had to show them something on their car in the bay? What about calendars? There are many that I have seen that I would not want my mother/children/grandkids to see. What does that say about the professionalism of your business? Are there old parts stacked everywhere? Is the trash removed frequently? Do your technicians yell profanity back and forth to each other? They sometimes don’t realize how sound can carry and people can hear what they are yelling.
Be proud to show customers what your service department looks like. Don’t be afraid to showcase the professionalism of your service department. What would happen if one of your customers had to use the restroom while in your service department? I have seen many that were just scary. What does this say to your employees? What about vendors who use your facilities? People talk.
Take a look at your service drive. Are your displays stocked with current merchandise? I have seen tire displays with no tires, or with tires that have so much dust on them that they are not appealing, and could leave people wondering if you are really in the tire business. What about menu boards that are comparing prices with your competition. I have seen many that displayed the date at which the price comparison was done that was well over one year old. What do you think goes on in the mind of your customer?
We as automotive service professionals have fought long and hard to overcome some of the stereotypes that have been heaped on us over the many years. Begin today taking a long look at things that customers see and hear that make us look less than the true professionals that we are. Remember, “Customers’ View – Be Sharp!”