Tech Stuff

Shop Referrals: A Shop’s Got to Know its Limitations

Who among us doesn’t smile when we watch the classic 1973 movie “Magnum Force,” as Clint Eastwood, playing his iconic character Detective Harry Callahan, walks slowly away as the corrupt Lieutenant Neil Briggs’ (Hal Holbrook) car explodes and he mutters his infamous line, “A man’s got to know his limitations”?

The same thing holds true for all of us. While your shop may be proficient in a wide range of diagnostic and repair procedures, let’s face it: It’s difficult to know everything.

Even though your shop offers a wide range of services, and you have a reputation for being the area’s expert in one or more specific areas, it’s hard to be an expert in absolutely everything.

There may be instances where you simply don’t feel comfortable in tackling a specific job, or do not have all the equipment to properly perform the job. Let me cite a couple of examples. Let’s say a good customer comes in with his classic 1966 Jaguar and wants you to work on the suspension and do an alignment. While you certainly can do alignments, those mid-’60s British cars have a distinct personality that might be best left to the shops who regularly work on them.

Or, what about the woman with a 2011 Mercedes who needs at least one of the batteries replaced? One shop owner I know said he properly diagnosed the problem, followed the proper procedures (or so he thought), and ended up needing to have the vehicle towed to a specialist to bring the car back to life. Imagine the frustration, embarrassment and cost for something that should be as straightforward as a battery replacement.

These are the times when you need to just say no. But when you face these circumstances, never leave your customer in the lurch. Prove that you are the expert and have a referral list of shops that can properly do the work for the customer. And, with your customer’s permission, you can even make the call to help set up the appointment.

I’m not just talking about referring the customer back to the new car dealer, either. I’m talking about having done your homework about the quality of work being performed by any shop that is on your referral list. The bottom line is you want to make sure your customer always knows that you are the first person to contact for any vehicle repair work.

Another benefit of creating a relationship with hand-picked shops in your market area is the goodwill you’ve established with those shops. You refer specialty work to them, and in turn, they refer jobs to you that are out of their comfort zone. The customer benefits by being serviced by a shop that offers the best fit for their needs.

Granted, it’s difficult to admit that you can’t do everything. But instead of allowing your ego to stand in the way of providing the customer with the best service possible, creating a working alliance with other shops can be a win-win for everyone involved.

Once you’ve established a network of specialty shops (and that involves visiting those shops and working out a bipartisan agreement), instead of appearing negative by giving the customer the impression that your shop can’t meet their needs, you can turn this into a positive by exuding confidence and providing them with the best solution. ■

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