“Absolutely crazy!” friends and family exclaimed. “Why would you do that? Isn’t that dangerous?” they asked, when we told them about our plan.
By Becky Witt For shop owners, it’s often better to treat people the way they want to be treated, rather than the way you would like to be treated
The industry continues to preach car count. Shop owners are taught that in order to increase sales, we must have more cars. Makes sense, right? I’ve long said that we don’t need more cars, we need better cars. We need customers who want their cars fixed right. Going beyond that, we need customers who are willing to perform operations that reduce breakdowns and extend the useful life of the car.
Selling might carry a negative connotation to some. Consider that selling is nothing more than helping a person get what they want. In order to help someone get what they want, it’s important to understand what that is. Half the cars in most shops today are owned and operated by women. It can be difficult for a man to understand what women want regarding their cars.
Men and women are from totally different dimensions. Whenever you see a video entitled “Hold my beer and watch this,” you can be reasonably assured the main characters are male. For some reason guys feel compelled to prove their manhood. Women are seldom impressed with the feats of bravado.
Going back to our origins, the males were hunters. Their jobs were to occupy a hilltop, scan the horizon for game, club it and drag home dinner. The ability to accept risk was genetically engineered into them.
Women stayed close to home and protected and nurtured the young. They were extremely averse to risk and relied on large males to protect and defend them.
One of the first business skills taught in our industry is “Practice the Golden Rule—Treat people the way that you would like to be treated.”
While the Golden Rule sounds like a wonderful idea, take another look at it. People who thrive on risk are treating people who are averse to risk like this is what they should want. It’s no wonder that misunderstandings occur. It should demean no one to accept the fact that different people want different things. This doesn’t even have to be divided along gender lines. There are men who love to sew and women who can hunt and kill a deer.
Let’s introduce a new idea called “Witt’s Diamond Rule—Treat people the way they want to be treated.” I’m going to suggest that it would be wise to understand that there is a large segment of the motoring public who willingly pay good money to keep cars from breaking. Well, it sounds easy, but it involves a change in thought and education on new technology.
One of the most obvious examples is battery replacement. When does a person buy a battery? The answer was always when you need one, Einstein. This makes as much sense to me as driving around with an empty gas can in your trunk until you run out of gas, then walking to the nearest place to fill the can. You buy gas before you need it, most of the time, right?
I decided to try to determine the best way to prevent battery failures at my shop. I recorded the age of battery failures over years and thousands of cars. I used the scientific formula for probability which revealed that battery failures in Lincoln, Nebraska, ramped up dramatically at 39 to 42 months. I concluded that I could drastically reduce the odds of a failure by replacing batteries at 36 months as a maintenance item.
I posted this concept on a popular technician network and was promptly barbequed and labeled a crook. How could I sleep at night, knowing I had replaced a battery that was still under warranty? Clearly, I was a carnival snake oil salesperson, intent to prey on wide-eyed innocent consumers.
What I understood was this: When a woman’s car doesn’t start, it can be a potentially life-threatening situation. When a man’s car doesn’t start, it’s often just another adventure. Ask a question of the men in a group, what steps do you take to protect yourself from sexual assault when you go out at night? Crickets, puzzled looks and confusion will be the result. Then ask the women in the group and you’ll get a LOT of different answers. The percentage of women who have been threatened is alarming and we in the auto service business need to understand this and address it.
My point is that replacing a battery based on age and location makes perfect sense when it comes to protecting women. Consider dropping one of your loved ones off someplace after dark when they are alone and leaving them there to fend for themselves. Unthinkable. But if their car won’t start, the result is exactly the same. They are potentially threatened. People don’t want a battery; they want a car that starts at midnight.
The Witt Diamond Rule—Treat your customers the way that they want to be treated. Track automotive failures in your area to determine how you can reduce failures. This applies to batteries, tires, hoses, belts, filters and a host of other things. Resist advising repairs until they are desperately needed. Consider prevention as a reason for replacement.
Tire Rack did a study of wet braking traction. It found that tires worn to 4/32nds tread depth took almost double the distance to stop from 70 mph as a new tire. We recommend tire replacement at 5/32nds. Customers love this and the difference is striking. Worn tires are a safety hazard.
The best marketing strategy is Relationship Marketing. When a shop has a strong relationship with a customer, price is less of an issue. Women value relationships and when strong bonds are developed, they will be your most loyal customers. Not only does this strategy cost nothing at all, but it is also more profitable and more gratifying to all involved.
Don’t sell a tire that’s worn to the limit of 2/32nds. Sell the safety of replacing tires at 5/32nds. Don’t sell a cheap tire as a great buy. Sell a choice of tires with different performance ratings. Once you get your customer talking about what they want, the sale is almost automatic.
Ask every customer about their batteries and wiper blades. This is a great start to finding out how people want to be treated, as well as easy sales for you.
By Becky Witt © 2023 Hearst Business Publishing, Inc
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