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Marconi: Sometimes, The Customer Needs a Reality Check

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bad customer

Each time Dave brought his car in for any type of service or repair, he questioned the price. We engaged in a back-and-forth question and answer debate where he would try to lead the conversation to his point of view. Dave brought coupons from other repair shops, flyers from the newspaper, and ads he received in the mail from dealerships—all in an attempt to prove his position about the price I was charging. I handled each objection with as much professionalism as possible. And trust me, it wasn’t easy at times. In the end, thankfully, he would concede and authorize the repair or service. 

To be fair and balanced, Dave was a loyal customer for years. We were his first call, and for the most part, he welcomed and appreciated the advice and recommendations we made regarding his and his family’s vehicles. 

One day, Dave pushed the wrong button. He called me for a price on a set of tires for his Volvo. He gave me the tire size and the brand he wanted. I told him to give me a few minutes to create an estimate and I would call him back to discuss. Ten minutes later, I called Dave with the price for the four tires, mounted and balanced, which also included the wheel alignment. Dave hesitated, and after a short pause he said, “So, tell me Joe, why should I spend $60 more with you for the same set of tires I can get at the Goodyear store in town?”

After a few silent choice words spoken to myself, and with a calm but aggravated tone, I replied, “Let me tell why you should spend $60 more. First, remember when you were going on vacation and forgot to get the oil changed and I brought you in right away so you can go away with peace of mind?  And remember when your daughter was coming home from college on that rainy Friday night and the check engine light came on? You called me in a panic because she was a few hours from home and alone. I told you not to worry, I would call your daughter, get as much information as possible and handle it. Then, I waited by the phone until your daughter was back in town and safe. Remember that, Dave?” There was silence on the phone, and I started to regret the way I answered him.

Then, to my surprise, Dave said, “Joe, I’m sorry. I’ll pay the $60 more and, trust me, I will no longer question you on price.” On that day, Dave needed a good dose of reality.

Please don’t think that every customer can and should be handled this way. There are customers who focus on price so much that no amount of reasoning or discussion can ever change them. These are probably not your customers. They weren’t mine. And while I am not suggesting you throw in someone’s face all the things you have done for them, there are times when a customer needs to be reminded of the value you bring to them and their family. 

Handling customers can be a challenge. No matter how we view our price, they sometimes have a different perspective on what they should pay. We also don’t always know the real issues behind why some customers question price. And some of those customers keep coming back to you year after year. 

The key takeaway here is to try to understand the particular needs of each customer. Make sure you and your service advisors engage in conversation with each customer at each visit. Learn how to handle a price objection, and don’t fold when a customer says, “That’s a lot of money.” It just may be a lot of money. 

Think about this. How many times have you gone out to dinner and after getting the check at the end of the meal, said, “Wow, that’s a lot of money!” It doesn’t mean you didn’t enjoy the meal or the service. It also doesn’t mean you won’t go back to that restaurant. It simply means it’s a lot of money. 

Next time find yourself engaged in a price debate with a customer, remember that there may be things you don’t know about the customer’s financial situation. Remain calm, build value, and reinforce the benefits of why that customer should continue to do business with you. If that doesn’t work, well, then a good dose of reality might be the only way to handle it. 

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