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In today’s automotive business, we often use the phrase “taking care of the customer.” What does that actually mean? The majority of the time, we are taking care of the vehicle and not truly the customer. Taking care of the customer has a very simple explanation, and that is the relationship.

Harvey Firestone once said, “The secret of my success is a two-word answer: know people.” That statement is as accurate now as it was then. To know people, you must have a relationship with them. A relationship in the automotive world is seen as trust and compassion. Today’s customers seek those traits more now than ever before. Even I, as a consultant, unconsciously seek these same traits daily. In my travels to cities across the US, I base my decisions on everything from meals to hotels on the current Google reviews. The reviews I search for are very simple: how will I be treated? I want to know that I am valued as a customer. As a result of this, price becomes an unconnected factor for me. So, how does one build this customer “relationship”?

All relationships start in the same way: trust. Unfortunately, trust is not a tangible item we can just display on our desk for the customer to see. Trust has to be seen by customers through how they feel toward you. So, you’re probably already asking yourself, “how can I control someone’s feelings”? Newsflash, you can’t. The easiest way to demonstrate trust to a customer is through communication. Communication is the key. The moment I am promptly greeted at a restaurant with a smile, I immediately feel comfortable and have a sense of trust. So, when I ask my server, “what’s good here?” I unconsciously accept the recommendation and place the order. This method of communication is what I teach on a daily basis with my clients. I advise service advisors to start every interaction the same way: a friendly meet and greet. Once a customer feels that connection, they have a “relationship” with the advisor. As I stated earlier, a relationship is about trust and compassion. With trust, customers will lower any perceived opinions of automotive shops and willingly accept your recommendations. Why, you ask? Because they trust that you have their best interest in hand. The second part of this process is compassion.

Compassion is defined as sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. You probably read that definition and noticed a word that triggered your mind. The word “concern.” In the automotive world, we use this word on a daily basis. It’s placed on almost every line of a repair order. It has become everyday vocabulary, with limited awareness. So how do we show actual concern for a customer? It starts with a very simple task of listening. Too often, advisors rush during the initial write-up process. This tends to dismiss compassion towards our customers almost immediately. Every week, I teach advisors to simply slow down and listen to customers. Taking this time does tremendous things in our service department. It shows that we truly have concern and compassion for our customers, our fellow employees, and our business. Our customers feel they have a relationship with advisors. Our technicians have the needed information to successfully repair/diagnose customers’ vehicles. Our business prospers financially when customers return for future repairs and/or maintenance visits.

In closing, I urge each individual reading this to look at his or her daily interactions with their customers. Focus closely on your interaction and ask yourself this question: “Would I have a relationship with an individual replicating the same customer handling that I am delivering?”

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