Strengthening Relationships for a Fast Turnaround

Sept. 17, 2019

How a shop manager continues to form relationships with both customers and vendors.

If Kim Jacob, co-owner of Jake’s Automotive in Sterling Heights, Mich., gives Chris Jacob the day off, and has to explain that to customers looking for him, she will most likely hear a joking, “Are you kidding me!” from a customer or two.  

Since first joining the business in high school, Chris (Kim’s step son) has been an integral part of Jake’s Automotive for over 25 years. Starting off as a lube tech, Chris has worked his way up to shop manager and continues to aid in the growth of the business through his strong relationship building skills with both customers and vendors.

“Over time, he learned the ropes⁠—that there is a softer side of auto repair and auto service,” Kim says. “Our clients can always walk in and know Chris is there.”

Ease their worries.

Chris says that the best way to build relationships with customers is to simply look at things from their perspective and treat them as you would treat a friend.

“When they (customers) walk into the door, they don’t know what to expect a lot of the times, so I’d rather get to their level so we are all on the same page,” Chris says. 

Undoubtedly, the auto repair industry comes with unsure customers. Chris says that, in order to continue to build relationships with even the most wary of customers, he explains to them that they are on the same level and on the same pay grade.

To further ease the customer’s worries, Chris will calmly communicate to him or her the shop’s main goal⁠—to fix the customer’s car and get him or her safely back on the road.

Show and tell.

For customers that need a “special touch,” as Kim refers to it, Chris will go further for them, and integrate a “show and tell” moment of education.

Not everything can be explained over the counter, Chris says. Instead of leaving the customer in the dark about what is happening with his or her car, Chris continues his efforts to get everyone on the same page by having the customer follow him to the vehicle.

“If a customer’s car is making a certain noise, I will bring them out to their vehicle and show them what the exact issue is,” Chris says. “Show and tell just seems to work way better [than solely a verbal explanation].”

This moment of education also offers an opportunity for Chris to point out other parts of a customer’s vehicle that may need maintenance in the near future.  

Stay organized and persistent.  

Because of Jake’s Automotive’s location in Michigan, the shop is about 20 miles away from the famous Woodward Dream Cruise, an event that attracts 1.5 million visitors and over 40,000 vehicles of all makes and models. This annual event brings in plenty of vintage cars from the 1940s to the 1960s to Jake’s, but locating the parts for these older cars can become a challenge, Kim says. 

“Hunting stuff down for these cars can be very difficult,” Chris says. “I can’t just go up to the local parts store and find what I need.”

In order to successfully and quickly acquire these parts, Chris has to form growing and positive relationships with vendors. He is persistent with constant communication, and is sympathetic when a breakdown of communication happens, Kim says. 

While juggling locating multiple parts at once, Chris stays organized by saving websites and noting who has what, where and when. This system is also beneficial for the rest of the Jake’s Automotive team for when Chris is out of the shop and another staff member needs to step in and cover his role.     

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