After reading an article penned by a fellow automotive professional, I was inspired to share my thoughts on the value of developing a relationship with the people who take care of your vehicles. The author of this inspiration, Dan Backus, is an automotive parts jobber (a jobber is a supplier to the automotive repair industry). Dan wrote the following to his customers:

"Twenty-seven years ... not a lifetime but a decent start. This is how many years I have been involved in the automotive business. We've shared good and bad times alike. In times of need (business, personal, or otherwise), I've tried to solve your problems in the best way that I could. This is very important to me because solid relationships are what good business is built upon. Sometimes we get lucky when a miracle is wrought, leaving everyone happy."

As I read on, I realized that Dan was calling upon the relationship he and his customers had "forged in fire" over the years, in light of a new national competitor that will be courting them for their business soon. This got me thinking about the relationship between the auto repair facility and the motorist in light of all that's going on in the repair industry. We see giant retail chains popping up all over, vying for the motorist's business. "Buy from us! We have the best prices! Nationwide Warranties and Nationwide Presence!"

What we fail to see is what happens down the road when a problem pops up. For instance, let's say that you have a repair done by that mass retailer. Then, a year later, the repair fails. You go back to the original location of the repair for a warranty claim and the first thing out of the counter person's mouth is, "Do you have your receipt?" You think to yourself "Yea, right..." The next thing you know you are barraged with a battery of questions relative to the repair. "When was it done? What side was fixed? What kind of part was replaced?" All the things you cataloged in your mind, right? I don't think so! Will they remember when you had your car in? Or, what kind of car you drive? Do they even care? (they "just work here" - and there is no owner in sight to speak with). In the final analysis, judgement is called and the verdict is in. "I'm sorry sir/ma'am, but without your receipt I can neither give you warranty consideration or the sale price on the replacement." REALITY CHECK!!!! Was the saving of a couple of bucks worth it? A resounding NO!! Welcome to the sterile, exacting, calculating, objective world of corporate America where life revolves around the P or L statement (Profit/Loss) and people are merely account numbers.

I hear it all the time from people ... they're constantly shopping price! If they can save a couple of bucks they're happy! Who needs a good working relationship? Over and over, again and again, I hear, "As long as I can save a couple of bucks, I'm happy." This mantra resounds through the ranks of motorists today. Hey people, wake up! There's a lot of value in relationships!! And I'm talking value in terms of real dollars and cents, not sentimental value (which is priceless). Let me help you evaluate just how much value. Consider the following story:

Dick and Jane have a set of rear struts replaced on their Chevy at Sam's Garage in June. A year later a problem arises with the ride quality of the vehicle. Sam discovers that the rear struts are bad. He seems to remember that the rear struts were replaced last year sometime (which is downright amazing, considering all the cars he works on in a year)! Sam does a customer history report on the car and sees that the struts were indeed replaced last year. However, they are out of warranty by one month! Here is where the relationship factor comes in ... I call it "loyalty at work." Dick and Jane have been taking their cars to Sam's Garage for years. At this point, Dick Jr. and little Jane are also going to Sam's. So Sam calls Dan Backus, the parts supplier (whom he's been doing business with since he opened 20 years ago), and explains the problem to Dan. Can he do anything for him? Dan (entering into the "loyalty at work" mode) calls his supplier, explains the situation, and gets the struts replaced free of charge. Sam, in turn, installs the struts free of charge. Happily, Dick and Jane "See the World Today in Their Chevrolet" again. You see how it works? Stop being a floating, price shopping, nomad that never realizes the benefits of building a relationship like Dick and Jane did. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

'Til next time ... Keep Rollin'

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