In this article I’ll be looking at the reasons why I think some customers feel compelled to tell you they know a mechanic (read bloke down the pub, ‘mansplaining’), or they have looked online and diagnosed the issue for themselves – lo and behold, it’s a cheap and easy repair.
As frustrating as it is for someone to tell you how to do your job, how long it will take and how simple it is, we need to take an objective and honest look at why they might do it. First of all, the web isn’t exactly a new thing, but we reached the point some time ago where we were encouraged and actually conditioned to research, compare and investigate virtually everything in our lives for ourselves. This ranges from our insurance and shopping all the way through to where to eat and even our health. All you have to do is grab your phone and ‘Google it’.
We all do it. Before making a purchase or seeking a service of any description it’s wise to seek reviews, opinions and more information, while searching for the best deal. Sometimes the sheer volume of information shared and discussed on the web is in your face before you even ask for it. You can form an opinion of something before you even knew it was a thing. Aside from this we also listen to the opinions of people we trust – family, friends and that bloke down the pub.
There’s only one problem with this – what they’ve read or what they’ve been told could be a complete pile of crap.
Second of all, we would be naïve to deny that our trade has an image problem. The rogue traders, bodgers and conmen have tarred the industry and continue to do so, which is why the vast majority of technicians support a licensing scheme – but that’s a different conversation. Combine this with the issues discussed in the last issue’s ‘Customer Clinic – Part 1’ and common misconceptions about what you do, and you can understand why customers are apprehensive and lack trust in the trade.
Turning up to your workshop armed with some research and a ‘second opinion’ of sorts, isn’t really that strange in this day and age. Consumers now feel like they have all the information they need to protect themselves from the conmen.
Coincidentally, something landed in my inbox the other day which highlights perfectly the part the internet can play in throwing fuel on the mistrust fire – there’s a website which is using this to its advantage.
The website is motoreasy.com and they provide various services: Warranty, GAP Insurance, Breakdown Cover, Servicing, MOTs, Repairs and Car Leasing – they even sponsor ‘the driving entertainment on Dave’. They claim to make you ‘Feel Comfortable’,‘Save Money’ and ‘Take Control’ with regards to your automotive needs.
Customers don’t need to panic because they can relax in the knowledge that all the work is monitored by an ‘expert MotorEasy engineer’.
If you click on ‘Repair’ in the menu, it says ‘Motoreasy shops around for the best rates, so you don’t have to. And we pass on our trade savings to you. We do all we can to make your motoring easy.’ Right below this it offers you the chance to look at their Repair Plan Document. If you click on the link you’ll see that under appendix e) the trade discounts they secure can, at their discretion, be passed on in part to the customer. Hey, I could spend all day picking holes in this website, but that’s not the bit that beautifully highlights my point.
They have launched a campaign called ‘Lost in Translation’. You can have a look through it for yourself HERE.
On the page giving advice on ‘How to check a repair bill is fair’ they say they have seen an example of a garage wanting to change five parts all at once, but instead changing one or two at a time in the right order, was a less expensive way of solving the problem.
I guess we can call this the conscientious, customer focused ‘parts canon’…
Amongst some other dubious things on this page it also puts strong doubt in the consumers’ minds that suspension components should be replaced in pairs, bangs on about repairing parts and even states that by using more expensive parts, you are earning more commission.
On the page about baffling mechanic terminology, I’d like to draw your attention to Jargon Term 3: Diagnostic Check/ Charge – here’s what it says:
“The technician may plug a diagnostics system into your car to assess any faults; this sounds technical and can be used to mask the cost of an hour’s labour, but it usually entails no more than plugging a laptop into the car, taking minutes.”
While in principle there are some things on this website that are fair to say (and we know that), it is also fearmongering with incorrect information.
We approached Motoreasy.com for comment, and I received a reply from their Head of Marketing who has promised us a response very soon.
So, we all know what we are up against, it’s nothing new and it’s not getting any easier. The question is what can we do about it? Here’s a few ideas:
- Considering customers have spent some time looking online and talking to the ‘pub experts’ for the fix, while it’s possible they are incorrect, they will have a much better grip on the symptoms of the fault. It’ll sure beat the ‘it makes a funny noise sometimes’ explanations. Use this to your advantage; engage the customer’s theories and assumptions as a way to formulate a starting point for your investigations. This will also help build trust and put their mind at ease.
- In a previous life I was a sales rep. Before I had started my demonstrations, customers would regularly ask “How much…”before I had started, and I needed the demonstration to build value into the product before letting them know how expensive it was. My response was always, “Which bit do you want to buy?” to which they would always reply, “I don’t know, I haven’t seen what it does yet…” allowing me to carry on with what I was doing. If a customer tells you what the problem is, what to fix and how to fix it, offer to book the car in there and then for exactly what they have diagnosed for themselves. I’ll bet they’ll take a step back and ask you to confirm their thoughts first.
- You can’t and won’t win them all, as you know, and some customers just aren’t worth the aggravation. Don’t be afraid to turn a customer away if they won’t buy into your processes and allow you to diagnose and fix the fault properly, while charging a fair price for doing so.