22 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

See your garage through your customers eyes

High-quality service is defined by the customer’s experience while in your care and custody. Operational excellence ensures that the customer’s cars will be ready when promised and fixed right the first time.
It’s about understanding what your customer is trying to tell you when they are communicating their frustrations with the vehicle as it is about the proper diagnosis and professional quality work.

Moments of truth
Selling service is perhaps the most difficult of all sales to make. Buying a product – something you can hold in your hand or wear – constitutes the purchase of something you can touch or feel. Purchasing a service is something else entirely. When a vehicle owner buys a service, that person is really purchasing a promise – a promise that will be fulfilled in the future. That requires trust and a great deal of faith.
Your ability to perform is based upon a lot of things, not least of which is technical competency. However, you can’t demonstrate that technical competency until you are given the opportunity to do so. The vehicle owner can’t see technical competency. They can’t touch or feel it and you can’t hang it out in front of your garage like a sign.
Service starts when a customer sees and responds to an advertisement, hears about your business from a friend or relative, calls, finds you on the internet or just walks in.
For this reason, MOTs, or “moments of truth” have to be created – moments when a customer has the opportunity to come into contact with any member of your team where they will form an opinion about your business. These opinions will occur before, during, and after the work on their vehicle has been completed. They will ultimately define your personal and business success.
I cannot stress enough the consistent execution of your processes and procedures is the catalyst for your business to be recognised as one of the best. Do a great job the first time, and something less the great the next, and you are unlikely to see that customer again! The more people you have working for you, and the more services and products you have, the greater the challenge it is to achieve this consistency.  

All of this consistent high-quality service is only sustainable in your garage if your productivity and workshop efficiency levels allow you to make a profit. Productivity is a by-product of your technicians and reception staff having the ability to execute processes and procedures flawlessly. It will take more than one training course, the odd staff meeting or for that matter the odd investment in tools and equipment to reach the elusive dream.
Survival, in a complicated and changing world, is about assumptions. Assumptions allow us to function when we find ourselves beyond the limits of our understanding and experience. When we talk about standards, we’re just defining these assumptions in a more scientific language.     
Success in the garage business can be all about assumptions as well. We surround ourselves with a wall of assumptions to help us to make sense of the chaos we confront every day. To large degree, our success is based upon just how accurate many of these assumptions are. One of the ways we do that is to provide service based upon what we believe is best for the vehicle, assuming that what is best for the vehicle is best for the consumer when that might not necessarily be the case.  
In the end, these assumptions are about what we believe the customer wants, needs, and expects from us, not necessarily what the customer’s actual desires and expectations are.

Compelling value proposition
A perfect example of this, is the constant battle between ready when promised and fixed right first time. My experience of running garages has taught me that these two topics jockey for position as the number one customer concern when vehicle owners are seeking a garage service or repair rather than the myth that price is first and only consideration.
Understanding these topics, or you could say behaviours helps you learn about the relationship that exists between the provider of garage services and the recipient of those services. It is all about questioning our assumptions then re-creating a service environment that is responsive and respectful when it comes to those things are most important to our customers. It’s about who we are and who we will need to become just as much as it is about customer expectations, retention, loyalty, and satisfaction.
In the end, it is about creating a compelling value proposition – something your target customer will not be able to resist – and then delivering your services in a total quality service environment. It’s all about managing the whole scope of your relationship with the vehicle owner, recognising that perception is reality and only perception matters to your customers.

Confront your assumptions
Take this as an opportunity to look at your relationship with your customers in a new and different way. Confront your assumptions about customers, business in general, and our industry and consider how different things could be if we change the way we look at them. Remember, if you change the way you see things – if you change your standards and assumptions about your customers, your business and our industry – you may just change everything. In an industry like ours where confidence, self-image, and profits have been notoriously low, that might not be such a bad thing.
If you have that elusive dream of becoming a great business, a local garage that’s respected in the community, respected by its customers and staff then accept now that you have to change the way you currently operate. You need to think about the business in a way you have never thought about it before. You have to see it in the future, not in the present. That’s exactly what I did before I started Brunswick Garage. I knew then that I could not be an all-makes service operator and have the ability to provide the level of service that is required.

Walk a mile in their shoes
I encourage you to step outside your business, remove yourself as the owner and place those customer shoes on. Walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. Take a stroll from outside your premises, look at your sign, your brand image, is it clean bright and inviting. Pass through your reception, is it welcoming to your customer, is it clean bright and warm. Are your customers able to wait while their vehicle is being repaired in a clean, bright warm area, having refreshments?
Go through the workshop. Is it dull, dirty, things everywhere, are the technicians tool boxes clean and in order? Would you be happy to walk a customer of yours through to show them their vehicle or would you be too embarrassed?    
You will be far more successful with their help and ideas of all your team than you could ever be without them. This new way of thinking will make your team feel valued and more important than ever before.

Final thought
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do! Just remember, if you always do what you always did – you will always get what you always got.