“What’s your husband’s phone number? I know you won’t be able to answer my questions.”
Ray Christensen, service advisor at J&L Automotive, has actually heard co-workers throughout the year ask this question. Not only is this question degrading and just plain rude, it’s bad business.
According to Forbes, women make 90% of household financial decisions. Think a woman that’s asked that question is going to spend money in that shop after being treated like that? Think again.
I’s a sad reality but women are often treated as if they know nothing about their vehicles. This may or may not be true depending on the customer, but even if it is true, who cares? That’s why they are coming to you—for help. Christensen, who was recently named AAPEX’s Service Advisor of the Year, doesn’t stand for this. In fact, he has a rule for every woman that comes into his shop and expects his coworkers to feel the same.
Treat every woman that walks through your door like your mother or grandmother.
Christensen’s story is like many in the industry. He grew up helping in his father’s shop when he was little and got a job at a quick lube as soon as he turned 18. He’s worked in dealerships and independent shops and even owned his own shop for a while before coming to J&L Automotive in Alpine, Utah, in 2020.
Ever since Christensen’s been in auto repair shops, he’s been aware women don’t feel comfortable taking their vehicles in to get fixed.
“They never seem to get relaxed,” Christensen says. “You hear on TV that women get taken advantage of. The joke is, ‘If we want a good sale, we just have a woman come in.’ That’s horrible.”
Christensen notes that 70% of his customer base is female, so it’s of the utmost importance they feel they can trust him or they’re not coming back. Throughout the years, Christensen says he’s seen many instances of people talking down to women and admits that even he’s probably had a bad day or two.
“Some corrections have been needed,” Christensen says of the issue.
At J&L, any employee that works up front or answers the phone goes through training with Christensen. For a few weeks, he brings in a female that’s important to that person so they can practice selling work to her. He admits that they laugh and find it silly at first, but it becomes second nature and they start picturing their mom or wife every time a customer comes in and the change is monumental.
So, how exactly should they be speaking to women? The same rules should apply to any customer and that’s the key. Remember, the woman you are speaking to may know everything there is to know about a vehicle and a man might not even know what year his vehicle is. Never stereotype and follow Christensen’s rules.
First, create an environment they feel comfortable walking into. A clean space with a few magazines, snacks and decorations can make all the difference, Christensen explains.
Then, go out of your way to be bubbly and greet them. Christensen says he always smiles, waves and thanks his customers for coming in. Make sure to create a rapport with your customer and ask them questions to get to know them outside of the work that’s going to be done on their car.
Next, explain where the vehicle is going and keep them updated on when it should be done. Once the work that needs to be done has been figured out, use visual aids to show them exactly what the issue is. J&L uses videos available through Carquest that are very illustrated. For example, if a water pump is leaking, you can pull up a video that shows this and explains the function of the water pump and why it needs to be repaired or replaced.
After going through this training, Christensen says he sees a big difference in how the J&L employees interact with customers, which helps increase sales and drive in more repeat customers.
For anyone that doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way they are talking to customers, Christensen urges them to give his technique a try for 30 days.
“Give it an honest effort. It will prove itself. You have to try,” Christensen says.
How does he know it’s working for him? On average, he guesses a customer brings him a plate of cookies or some other thank you for how he treated them. Teach your employees not to stereotype. You never know who you’re talking to and the power they have to make or break your business.