Monday, January 16, 2017

If You See Something, Say Something

The world being what it is today, I’m sure we have all heard that before. It’s sound advice. In the context of what its original intent is, it is meant to protect life and limb. Nothing could be more important. So, now I’m going to ask you this question. What is it that prevents us from applying that thought process to our jobs? I’m not talking about “ratting out” Bill for taking an extra cigarette break or coming back 20 minutes late from lunch every day. Or maybe you know he’s really going fishing when he calls in sick. That’s an entirely different subject (which we will get to in a later blog) that addresses the relationship and respect we have for our associates and management people.

I’m referring to the hesitancy we have to recommend needed work that we come across that wasn’t on the original work order or related to the complaint the customer came in with. For the purpose of this discussion I’ll have to make a couple of exclusions. I’m going to leave out the “bad attitude” side of the equation. In most cases, those people shouldn’t be there in the first place. I’m also not going to address the possibility that you didn’t have the necessary training to recognize the potential problem when you saw it. There’s a solution for that and it’s called Training.

What I would like to talk about is the psychological tendency we have not to want to “impose” ourselves on others. Don’t believe me? Just follow along here. All of us, and I do mean all of us have, at one time or another been on the receiving end of a “high-pressure” sales pitch and we remember how it made us feel. Unfortunately, that feeling gets deeply imbedded in our minds, because we experience it all too often. As a matter of fact, unless you live in a total vacuum, it’s hard to avoid.

There are instances when the “imposition” is nothing more than a directive from corporate headquarters or the store management meant to up-sell or suggest a closely related item. “For another 25 cents you can get the 10 gallon size popcorn.” “Will there be any donuts with your coffee this morning?” “Those are 3 for a dollar this week.” Would you like to make a donation to XYZ charity today?” Most of the time these are innocent enough and could actually be beneficial to you or be something you would be happy to do.

The problem is, that as innocent as those examples are, they add to our collection of memories where we had that feeling of imposition. Without calling out or pointing a finger at any particular industries, generally speaking, the higher the ticket price of an item you are buying, the more likely you are going to run into the high-pressure or deceptive tactics. During those encounters, especially where you didn’t have the product or technical knowledge to weigh all the facts being thrown at you, you were at a disadvantage and forced to deal with a stressful situation. Folks, …. We remember stress! …. We remember the feeling and we think to ourselves that WE would never put any of our customers in that position. It’s just an uncomfortable place to be. That’s where your reluctance and hesitancy comes from. Believe me. It is not a bad thing to want to be a good person.

So now, how do we get by this? How do we get to “If you see something, say something”? The first step is to look at every vehicle that comes into your shop or on your lift as if it were the vehicle that was going to be driven out of there by the person you loved the most in this world. Really? …. Yes, really!!! I know you’re working and time is money and you’re already looking at three more vehicles than you can probably handle today and how would you possibly have the time to do all that? The reality is, it won’t take you a minutes’ worth of time to accomplish all this.

Let me oversimplify it. A customer comes in for an oil change. The car gets driven over the pit or onto the lift. While the car’s going into the air or you’re walking the length of the pit you surely see obvious problems without even thinking about it. Tires are unevenly worn or just plain bald. Oil dripping from the pan. Struts leaking, belts badly worn, boots torn, rot in the exhaust, …. Do I really have to go on? You’re seeing it anyway!!! There’s nothing that says the “extra” work has to be scheduled today unless there really is time or you’ve found a potentially life threatening problem in the brake system. I’m not telling you to put every car on the dyno or hook up a code reader. I’m just suggesting that in the time it takes to blink your eye you can spot a half dozen problems worth calling out, and, here comes the revelation, ….. SAY SOMETHING!

The unseen force that is at work here is one of trust. Remember, your customer, just like you has been subjected to the same “impositions” and pressure sales tactics by the very same people you have. They, like you, are going to be warry of anything that goes beyond the bounds of what they came into your shop for. Remember, they really didn’t want to be in your shop today in the first place (unless maybe it’s just for a routine oil change). The only thing that will make their acceptance of what you are suggesting is their level of trust in you and your shop. And the only way you’re going to gain that is by having an honest relationship with them.

Trust comes when you take the time to show them what you see as a problem and give your honest opinion as to how to correct it and how long they may have before they need to take action. When you say something like “Your tires are getting a little worn. You should be OK until your next oil change.”, your customer will become appreciative of your advice and thankful for your diligence. The fact is, that every time you offer your honest professional opinion about your customer’s car, you are building your relationship, trust and rapport.

The bottom line is you are really doing them a favor by calling their attention to a potential problem. At the very least you are making it easier for yourself and preparing them in advance for the “expected” repair on their next visit. You could even be saving their lives. If you lived across the country from that loved one we talked about earlier and they brought their car into a local shop for routine maintenance, I’ll bet you’d want that tech to alert them to a potential safety issue.   So, from now on, have a little faith and If You See Something, Say Something!

© Bill Rosenberg
BillR Services, LLC

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