Educate Your Customers

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How many times have you had a customer say to you, “I found that part a lot cheaper on the Internet,” or, “I went to the dealer and they said that you installed the wrong parts because they weren’t OE?” Hopefully it’s not too often, but it does happen and you can make your life a lot easier if you take the time to educate your customers at the time of sale.

A customer came to us about a month after we replaced the brake pads on her vehicle. She stated that the brakes we installed were squeaking once in awhile. We went on a test drive with her so she could try to duplicate the noise, but we heard no irregular noises or squeaks. We pulled the wheels and performed a complete brake inspection and found everything to be within specifications and working properly. We went over our findings with the customer and assured her that everything was fine with her brakes and if she heard the noise again to come in immediately so that we might be able to find the noise she was talking about.

A couple of weeks later, the customer returns and states that she either wants the right parts put on her car or all of her money back. She said she heard the noise when she was on vacation and went to the local dealership. They told her the brake pads were too big and she needed them to install OE pads to correct the problem. She declined. She also told us that she could buy the parts cheaper than what we sold them to her for. We talked with her for a while and explained the difference in parts, warranties and the difference between retail parts pricing versus cash-and-carry pricing. We set an appointment for her to come back in a few days.

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We ordered an OE set of brake pads and another set from our local aftermarket supplier and asked that the aftermarket representative be there when the customer returned for her scheduled appointment. When the customer came in, we compared both sets of pads and educated her on the differences and the value of using the aftermarket parts.

After the customer could see the pads were the same size and not “too big” like the dealer stated, she could only wonder why they told her that. She was upset with them and very pleased with us for taking the time to educate her on the subject. After further discussion about the squeak, she was hearing, it turned out it was an intermittently squeaky blower motor. She had the sound recorded on her phone the whole time and never thought to let us hear it.

Sometimes, we can run into a situation where the customer is confused by what we or a dealer tell them. These situations can cause distrust and should be handled with care. Always be honest, professional, and talk in words they can understand so as not to make them any more confused than they already are.

A few more suggestions:

Explain the value in what you are recommending. Keep the focus on value, not price.

Offer OE and aftermarket parts based on customer needs. Explain the differences between the two and why you are recommending a particular one.

When price becomes an issue for the customer, be patient. Offer them options when you can, but be sure to explain the best value for their situation.

Being in this business can be challenging at times, but very rewarding as well. The more time we take to educate ourselves helps us to more easily educate our customers. Well-educated customers help to build a strong, loyal customer base for years to come.

B.J. Lee has worked in the automotive repair industry for more than 30 years. He is an industry consultant and trainer for and owner of Stellar Performance Inc. in 29 Palms, Calif. Contact him at

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