Think Like a Millennial

June 1, 2017

It's time to accept the millennial mindset.

The auto industry has a terrible reputation. I spent the ’80s and ’90s accepting this. Sticking your head in the sand is so much easier than facing a harsh truth and wondering what’s next. Back in the day, subliminal messages used to be more commonplace but today, this is no longer an appropriate response. 

Maybe you’ve made the same mistake? I won’t judge you; I experienced it myself. I do want you to know there’s a better way. A warning, though: When you become aware of this solution, you won’t be able to play dumb. You will have to act. 

Failing to acknowledge a driver’s fears doesn’t do you any favors. Whether you believe all auto shops overcharge drivers or not, there’s no denying the fact that people are afraid of this possibility. Accept it! Life is about choices; you could choose to be defensive but that’s not a great choice. Customers don’t want to have a debate. They want you to listen with compassion and show them why you’re different. Simply put, there’s no way to ease a customer’s concerns until they “get it.” 

Hear their concerns, be a professional and fix their problem. Telling a person they’re “wrong” is the fastest way to alienate them. Shut up and let drivers speak their minds. That’s a better choice, even if your gut instinct is to defend the industry to which you’ve devoted your life. 

According to AAA, “overcharging” is a ridiculously common customer complaint about auto shops. You might think this is all one big misunderstanding. It doesn’t matter. Perception is reality. If drivers—our customers—believe overcharging is a problem, then it is a problem. End of story! 

Forty years of denial is not an effective problem-solving technique. At some point you have to wake up and smell the coffee. You must do everything in your power to make customers feel comfortable in their vehicle and understand the responsibility about investing their hard-earned money in auto repair and maintenance. It’s painful to pay for a service when you don’t understand how it benefits your life. 

Imagine you go to the doctor for your annual checkup. He recommends a diagnostic scan. You think, “Well, he’s an expert, so surely he knows best,” and hesitantly agree to it. A few weeks later, you receive a bill for $1,000 with no explanation of what this scan was meant to accomplish. How would that make you feel? Bad! It sucks to spend so much cash when there’s no tangible benefit. Maybe that scan was super important, but the doctor didn’t tell you why, so you had a poor experience. Now your perception of the medical community is tainted. 

It’s a tough way to live by always being on guard. What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if the millennial is right? What if there is a better way to connect in a way they understand and to which they can relate? If you can provide a fun, fast, value-packed, positive, life-changing experience in 15 minutes, the millennial will be your best buyer.  Think like a millennial. That means don’t tell me what; tell me why.   That’s who they are. 

“Having an uncomfortable conversation now is better than losing a customer’s business later.”

—Audra Fordin, owner, Great Bear Auto Repair

We’re in the service business, not sales. Once you understand millennial thinking and accept it yourself, the secret to excellent customer service is simple: meet (or exceed) your customer’s expectations. Being upfront about pricing, maintenance, recalls, and repairs is in your best interest. Having an uncomfortable conversation now is better than losing a customer’s business later. Make sure your service advisors understand how to communicate the benefits of auto safety. If people are aware of what you’re trying to accomplish, which is sparing them from wrecks, breakdowns, and inconvenient situations—they will be prepared for regular maintenance, in addition to what they requested. 

Do you care about how people perceive our industry? If so, implement these changes in your shop now. We can’t transform the auto industry’s reputation overnight, but if enough of us become honest and open about repair pricing, we can eliminate this objection from drivers’ minds. Are you in? I hope so!

About the Author

Audra Fordin

Audra Fordin is the fourth-generation owner of Great Bear Auto Repair in Flushing, N.Y., founder of consumer advocacy initiative Women Auto Know/Drivers Auto Know (, and author of “End Auto Anxiety: No Fear Car Repair and Maintenance for Busy Women.” Reach Fordin at [email protected].

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