Broski: Customers as Friends

April 10, 2023
The best thing a service advisor can do for a customer is to treat them as they would a friend

Most of us grew up working on cars—including our friend’s cars—for free. When I got older, a buddy’s wife said after a certain age you don’t work on friend’s cars for free. It’s the same with friend-customers. Yes, your customers can become your “friends.” I see it as a plus, a bonus.

How often do your friends yell at you? How often do you yell at your friends? Not often, I imagine. And if it happens, you probably make up soon.

Good customers/friends know you have to make a profit and that includes working on their car. And that means not giving them a huge discount and making it up on some other customer.

Treat Your Customers Like Long Lost High School Friends

If a former high school friend showed up at your shop, would you sell them everything that needed attention on the car today? Or would you do the necessary repairs today and schedule some in the future? If they trusted you, you wouldn’t need to sell them. You could just tell them. That’s right, tell them. Tell your “friend” what their car needs.

If you nurture that relationship, they will take care of you, and probably refer you. And probably say yes to more of the inspection items, increasing your ARO.

Fake Friends

Personally, I’m dealing with “friends.” Friends who know I have to make a profit (just like they do). Huge lesson to follow. One of our customers who is high up in the banking business referred to her clients/customers as her Fake Friends. Until she invited some of them to her daughter’s wedding. She surprised herself; they were more than fake friends. It’s the same with your good customers.

From Prospect to Customer to Friend—and We’ve Never Met!

I got a call from a guy because he read our great online reviews.

He asked about our knowledge of early Porsches and whether would we work on his (son’s) 1988 924S (basically a 944 with old-school CIS injection). It had an intermittent starting problem; it cranks over OK but doesn’t start. Ugh! That’s no fun on an older car. There are a limited number of shops capable of or open to working on a car situation like that (and keeping the customer happy and making a profit). To make sure, I confirmed with the boss. He cringed but said yes.

The car is in Southern California near us, while the dad on the phone is in San Francisco—400 miles north. He was in the car business in some fashion, and quite mechanical.

We talked about many things as I shared my/our expertise. I told him I/we grew up working on early Porsches. We talked about more car stuff.

He decides to have his son bring in the car. It started fine for us (of course!). I kept him posted during the next few days. We did find a few small things that needed attention. His son picked it up.

Weeks later, the car gets towed in with a no-start situation, and this time with a noise while cranking. We replaced his starter, and he was happy. We still haven’t solved his intermittent starting problem.

On the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, a guy pulls up, get’s out of his car, and asks if I’m Victor. I say yes, and he introduces himself as Roy, the owner of 924S. He came down from San Francisco for the holiday and just had to meet the guy who took care of him from a distance. I knew then I had done something right.

This Business is About Relationships; Relationships with Friends.

It’s not about exceeding customers’ expectations every time. Heck, how do you exceed the exceeded expectations? It’s not about selling benefits, value and safety. Nobody likes to be sold. Nor is it about overcoming objections to additional service. There shouldn’t be any; you’re dealing with a friend. It should be like dealing with a high-school friend, not a suspicious (price shopper) customer on high alert so as not to be ripped off. It’s about the (trusting) relationship. The car either needs the additional work or it doesn’t—there’s no selling. Explain what’s wrong, how the system works and what will fix it. Simple.

There is only trust that you will take care of them and their pocketbook—and make a profit.

About the Author

Victor Broski

Victor Broski has more than four decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He worked at five different German car repair shops, learning something from each. As a service advisor with a degree in speech communication, he figured out how to easily get customers to say yes to the additional (DVI) work and be happy about it. Victor learned that great customer service brings great customer reviews, which brings inquiring phone calls that convert to new customers.

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