Take something with a slightly “technical” edge or anything of a complicated and expensive nature to it, and put yourself in the market for it. A TV, a new computer, a new car. It should be something you personally don’t have a commanding knowledge of. Something that you have to research or seek the advice of others, or depend on what is being told to you by someone who is in a position to “sell” it to you. If you’re a tech wiz, make it kitchen cabinets or some other project. Lock it in and keep it in mind as we continue.
I think we have all been in the situation where we say one thing and the customer hears something different. Let’s discard the customers who are just trying to bust your chops or get over on you. You’ll never get that total to zero. I’m talking about the customer who genuinely believes you said something different. Now it’s time to pay the bill and it’s not what they expected, or they look at the invoice and don’t see a service or item they were “sure” was supposed to be there. This could be an honest misunderstanding on either side. These instances are uncomfortable, at best, for both you and your customer.
Look; there could be a misunderstanding about something as straightforward as wiper blades, filters, or type of oil. That’s not usually where the problem lies. It has been my experience that more problems arrive as the size of the ticket goes up. And it’s not necessarily because of the amount of dollars involved. It is because the larger jobs are considerably more complex in nature and involve multiple parts and services. So, where am I going with this?
It is really vital that both you and your customer are “all in” before the job starts. You are the expert. You have seen this a thousand times before and you can do the job with your eyes closed. At least your customer has come to the right place. The important element here is to take the extra step to make sure your customer knows exactly what you think the solution to their problem is and if there are any “extra” parts or services that might become necessary if you find certain conditions as you get into the job. You don’t have to make technicians out of them but they are entitled to have a “reasonable” idea of what the outcome might be. They will appreciate you informing them and you will appreciate the no hassle phase when it comes time to pay the bill.
The more complicated the job is, the more options or approaches there tend to be for a solution. Not all solutions are equal. They certainly don’t cost the same. It is important for your customer to understand their options because their circumstances differ. With a little cooperation and conversation, together, you can find the best path forward. Once this is agreed and understood by both parties, you are good to go.
So, here’s how your interaction with your customer should go. There are a few basic steps for you to follow.
The first is Greeting the customer in a warm and friendly way. This doesn’t need to be an all-day discussion. The whole process can be accomplished in less than a minute. If you know them and their family, if you share enthusiasm for the same sports team, say something. You both know they are there because they have a problem. You just want to connect or re-connect in a personal way. Think about this. You have heard about doctors who are known for having a “good bedside manner”. You know how important that is to you and your family at that moment. Got it?
Next is the Questioning process. Figuring out why they are here in front of you. Here is where you discover what the problem is, at least from the customers point of view. This is not meant to be an interrogation nor should it sound like one. You will start getting an inkling from the minute your customer starts talking, BUT, even if you think you know where they are going, be patient and let them have their say. Resist the temptation to blurt out your diagnosis because there just might be another clue six words further into the conversation that will lead you to an additional problem or an altered conclusion. Just think about a time when you got interrupted in the middle of a conversation. How did that feel? Remember it!
Now, it’s time for Consensus where you present your diagnosis and solution. Once you have a handle on what their problem is, you need to summarize it and “read it back” to them. There is a difference to them between a buzz or a whir, a bang or a clank. By doing this you are going to get your customer on board with your conclusion and make them an “active” participant. It is important for them to have ownership. After all, it’s their problem you’re working on.
Finally, it is time “Close the deal”. Here is where the good faith estimate of what the repair will cost is detailed (hopefully in some form of printed authorization). You go over your work process and confirm that you will be in touch with them at a certain point in the tear down to confirm with them that everything is as expected or to let them know, and make a decision, on any additional needs discovered. It is also a good time to reconfirm when the vehicle will be ready for pick-up and/or their need for a ride.
I’ve laid out four distinct steps for you to follow; Greeting, Questioning, Consensus and Closing. You’re not quite done yet. There is one more skill you need to hone and that is Confirming. As someone who has been involved in sales and customer service my whole life, I am well aware of when the “sales presentation” is over you need to shut up. I am a subscriber to that theory. But a word of confirmation that your customer has made the right decision by agreeing to your recommended solution can be very reassuring. I can’t tell you what that is going to look like because, chances are that it will vary from one situation to another. But, let me offer this scenario. Your customer has just made a very difficult decision to spend $1,200.00 on a repair they weren’t counting on. They may be getting ready to put it on a credit card to extend paying for it or they may be putting off something else in their life they had been planning on. Not everyone can reach into their pocket and pull out that kind of money without it impacting something else. A quick word from you, assuring them that the repair really is necessary and, you understand it’s a lot of dollars they are committing, but the results will be a ; (fill in the blank) __________ (safer, more reliable, longer lasting, ……… ). Your customers are people just like you.
© Bill Rosenberg
BillR Services, LLC