From The CEO - March - 2018

I Told You… I Don’t Like Fish!

You’re at a friend or relative’s house for dinner. After about an hour of chit chat, dinner’s served. You’re starved, but then a sinking feeling comes over you as you notice they’re serving trout. And worse, the heads are still on.

They notice your change in expression and ask “Don’t you like trout?” You respond with, “I’m really sorry. It’s not the trout; I just don’t really care for fish. But there’s plenty here, don’t worry about me.” They all get a little humor out of it and the meal goes just fine.

Later that evening you strike up a conversation about this fabulous new restaurant you’ve discovered. Turns out they’ve been there many times. So you begin talking about the menu items and they go through a list of their favorite dishes. Then they stop and ask, “Oh man… did you check out their oyster bar?” You can’t help but get a sour look on your face as you say, “Yeah, I don’t care for fish.”

They respond with “Oysters aren’t fish. You should try them. They’re terrific, especially these, because they’re so fresh. They get a shipment every day from San Francisco.”

“No, really… I don’t like fish.” They look at you with a hint of disgust and think you’re just being difficult.

The following month they come to your house and what do they bring with them? Salmon pâté. You’re trying to keep your cool as you think to yourself, “Do these people not get it? I can’t stand fish!”

So what’s the point? Take this discussion away from the dinner table and put it in any customer/business scenario where the business agent doesn’t listen to what the customer is asking for. We’ve all been there, and we get just as frustrated as in this dining experience.

But for some reason, when we take the scenario into a transmission shop, it’s easy to stop listening. We’ve been through the sales discussion enough that we’ve learned that there’s a right way and a wrong way to go through it. Or maybe, better put, there’s “my” way or “no” way to go through it.

“The customer needs educating,” we tell ourselves. Then we follow it up with “Customers don’t understand what’s needed to do this job right.” We think it’s ridiculous when they ask us questions like “How much will it cost?” Or, “When can you have it finished?”

I think part of the problem is that we just don’t know why people ask what they do, and life would be so much easier for everyone if they’d just do it “our way.”

But the simple truth is, they ask these questions because the answers are important to them. Maybe a lot more important than the quality of your parts or your years of experience. They expect you to use good parts and know what you’re doing. For them, that was never in question.

But price? Price can be a determining factor for some customers… particularly if they don’t have the money. Time? That lets them know just how long they’ll be inconvenienced without their transportation. Often that means they’ll have to rent a car, or find themselves stranded in their homes, unable to go to work or take their kids to school.

And, since those questions are important to them, they should be important to you. They’re the ones you’re trying to sell to, so you need to address their concerns… even if you don’t think they should be important. Sometimes it’s more useful to recognize that they don’t like fish, rather than trying to convince them of how fresh your fish is!

For over 10 years now, we’ve asked tough questions of consumers and shop owners, to get a sense of what consumers are looking for and how shop owners can modify their approach to fill those needs better than their competition. It’s the essence of the What’s Working program.

This year, we’ll do another series of extensive surveys of consumers and shop owners, and compare the findings with what we discovered over a decade ago. We’ll present the findings, along with our analysis, to provide you with a better understanding of this changing market at the 2018 ATRA Powertrain Expo at Bally’s in Las Vegas. It’ll be fun!

So the next time a customer asks you a question you think sounds silly, just pretend they said, “I don’t like fish,” and then hand them your updated menu.