Focus on the Right Customers

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I know that all shop owners run into this kind of situation almost daily: A customer will walk in and ask, “How much is it for a brake job? I have the pads on the front seat.” This same situation recently happened to us.

We told the customer that it is our policy to not install customer supplied parts and that we would perform a complete brake inspection to determine exactly what was needed and what the cost would be. We also explained that the inspection fee would be waived if we performed the repairs to his vehicle. He said, “whatever,” signed the estimate and walked out the door.

I could already see how this was going to go.

After the inspection, we found that the vehicle needed both front rotors, pads, grease seals, rear brake drums and shoes. One adjuster was frozen up and a brake flush was needed due to contaminated brake fluid.

We estimated the job, called the customer to explain what was needed and the cost of each item. The customer said to do the rear brakes and he would do the front brakes as he already had the pads in the vehicle and he didn’t have any more money.


Within 10 minutes the customer called back and said not to do anything and that he would be in soon to pick up the vehicle. So the customer walks in and wants to know if our brake pads are “gold plated” because he bought his a lot cheaper. We spent several minutes trying to explain to the customer the difference between him purchasing a part versus buying the part through the repair process at our shop. We explained all the benefits of purchasing the parts and service from our shop, but this went nowhere as the customer was belligerent, unreasonable and just wanted “cheap.” The customer left and burned out onto the highway almost getting hit by oncoming traffic.

If this happens to you, don’t get caught up in the moment and take it personal.

Here’s why:

You are the educated auto repair professional. It is up to you to educate your customers as much as possible. Some customers are willing to learn, some are not.

Sell the value of doing business with your shop. Most customers see and want that value. Those customers are 90 percent of your base. The other 10 percent of your customers are often times the ones you don’t want. Some customers just want cheap, period, and cannot be sold otherwise. Keep educating your customers. It builds trust in you and your company. When you come across one of the 10 percent, let them go and focus on the 90 percent.

You are the Professional here. Don’t take it personally. Just know it’s business and it’s OK to “fire” a customer from time to time. If you truly stay focused on the 90 percent that love you, you will be much happier and much more profitable.

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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