The Right Customer, The Right Shop - Old Bill
There has been some talk around the tool box about having the shops
start to lean towards more of a specialty rather than a complete repair
shop. I don’t know where these guys have been but I think it’s been that
way for a long, long time. I don’t see too many transmission shops
installing water pumps, and I haven’t heard of electrical repair shops
rebuilding engines. Not to say they couldn’t, it’s just not a practical
repair for that shops equipment or expertise. There is some cross
over jobs that most any shop can handle without a major investment into
equipment. But those are getting farther and few. It takes a lot of
investment and knowledge to stay up with every single make and model
out there these days. So I guess it makes sense to say that today, cars
need to be a good fit to the shop as well as having the necessary
equipment to handle those vehicles.
Then there is the other side of the repair, is the customer a good fit for your shop? Sometimes that can be as much of an issue as the car itself. You could be too political, too religious, or just not seeing eye to eye at the front counter. I tend to think it’s not a good idea to mix politics and religion into the counter talk… never goes well. Over the years I’ve seen some wonderful customers come thru my door. Some that other repair shops would shy away from and other customers or accounts that any shop would love to take on for their own customers.
Then there are those few exceptions to just about any rule you can think of. The kind of customer that you’re never sure of, the kind of customer that has more than a little salt and pepper in his mannerisms… the kind you’re not too sure if they are friend or foe. Or, just grumpy, stubborn, happy, sad, indifferent, and maybe even a bit comical. Well, I’ve got one for you…. My buddy Bill….
Bill, was a grumpy, didn’t want to be there, with a chip on his shoulder kind of guy. He was a referral from another long time customer. I don’t know how this happens, but it happens often enough, that the referred customer tends to be 50/50 whether or not they are going to become regular customers. I guess that would be true with all the new customers that come thru the door but I tend to remember the referred ones the most… probably because I see the “referral” at the shop over and over again.
Well, grumpy old Bill with the chip on his shoulder had a problem with his wife’s car. The car needed a new motor mount installed, not a big deal… that is until I tried to find one. Seems this old car had an unusual mount on the passenger side of the car… and there were only 2 left on the dealer’s locator information screens, both of which were out of state. And, not one aftermarket parts warehouse had one. So the only choice was to get the one from the dealer. It wasn’t going to be cheap… of course, this didn’t set well with grumpy Bill. I was almost positive that this was just the start of an upset customer that was going to rant and rave at the front desk, due to the cost and time involved with the repair. There wasn’t much else that could be done though, sorry to say… but that’s just the way it was.
The dealership parts department told me there wasn’t any other way to get the part without first ordering it in from the out of state dealer who still had it on their shelf. Old Bill would just have to wait… get grumpy, or whatever else it was he was going to do. A week went by and the mount finally showed up. The installation was no feat of mechanical knowledge, just remove the old, and install the new. I called Bill and told him his car was ready. Still grumbling, but he understood the situation.
When Bill showed up, we went thru the formalities at the front desk and while I was busy closing the invoice out one of the techs came thru the shop door with some news on another job that was in the shop. It was something important enough that he needed to tell me right then. As I was listening to what the tech was telling me, so was Bill. In a somewhat comical slapstick answer I told the tech how he should take care of the problem… Bill still listening in on the conversation started to get this gleam in his eye… he couldn’t resist putting his two cents in my answer to the techs question. It was without a doubt the funniest thing I have ever heard… “Just another “Bohica” situation is what it sounds like to me,” Bill said with a smirk on his face.
I didn’t have a clue what it meant… but he sure seemed to know. His ever broadening smile worked its way to filling the room with laughter from all who were there. (He did tell me later what the acronym was for… I’ll let you figure that part out yourself)
Turns out that Bill is a HUGE practical joker… and his grumpy attitude was a cover to keep his sarcastic joking attitude in check so that people wouldn’t think he was as crafty as he really is. It’s like watching a pot boil…. Boil into full blown hysterical funniness. Under this tough exterior there was a heart of gold. Be it, in a sarcastic way, but the whole thing comes out pretty hysterical. I like this guy…. what a crack up…. We talked for hours, traded war stories and car conquests. He even keeps a restored VW in his garage and drives it back and forth to shows. When I told him I used to have a collection of them and that I used to show one now and then… we were buds for life. So now with a few things in common it’s not unusual for my old buddy to call me up at the shop and try to disguise his voice and see if he can work me over and get me ticked off… Sorry, Bill… gotcha before you can get me. Turns out he is a perfect match for the rest of the cracked engine blocks and stripped gear heads that hang around the shop… he’s made himself a new home as far as I’m concerned.
So ya just never know sometimes, whether or not the job is right for your shop, or if the customer is right for your shop.
Oh, and Bill did ask me one time, “I’ll bet you’re going to turn me into one of your stories…. I know ya are… I’m just that kinda guy… ain’t I?” Ok, Bill, you win… you’re in a story now.... I think you’ve done pretty good old friend… pretty good indeed.