I received a nice letter recently from a newly opened auto repair shop.
Company X is a complete automotive service center with some unique benefits that our loyal customers have come to expect.
- We are a family owned business – We are proud of the committed and always friendly team members that are part of our Company X Family. We consider every customer as a member of this family and we treat everyone how they would like to be treated, with respect and honesty.
Is this the most important thing they want to tell me?
Many proposals that I review start with a similar statement:
- We are a small business.
- We are a large business.
- We are a Veteran-Owned Business.
I wonder why I would care that they are family owned? There MIGHT(??) be cases where I care about that. But is that what I care about most in an auto repair company? For me, “No.”
Some family businesses are good and others are not. The attribute of being family owned suggests only that the leaders of the company may have received their job as an inheritance versus some other way. That may be good: the owners may have spent their whole life preparing to lead the business. It may be bad: the owners may have no aptitude for the business. The point is that being family owned probably doesn’t tell me anything, it certainly is not unique; and it is not a benefit, at least to me. If management is important, tell me what their qualifications are and how that benefits me.
The next sentence discusses what they are proud of. Again, I ask: “Do I care?” It certainly doesn’t tell me about what they do, how they do it, or how I benefit. What does it mean to be committed? What does it mean to be friendly? You can be friendly and not do what I want or do a good job. In fact, the friendly representative that is doing a bad job is annoying. Is that the second most important thing they should want to tell me? I’m not looking for a friendship, and I will not return if I am treated poorly. So what are they trying to tell me? Whatever it is should have been on the page.
The third sentence tells me that they consider me as a member of their family. That is actually something that I don’t want. I’m not a member of their family, and I don’t know how they treat their family members. I’d actually like to be treated as a valued customer with high expectations. I certainly have seen some families where I would not like to be treated as one of their members. Perhaps there are even some people in my family whom I wouldn’t want a business relationship. (Oh, and if you are in my family and you are reading this, I obviously don’t mean you. It’s those other people.)
Not unlike so many proposals I see, this prime real estate is squandered on something that probably does not achieve their goals.
For me, what I want from a repair shop is:
- Ease in getting appointments;
- Problems fixed correctly the first time;
- The car ready when promised
- Availability of a loaner car and the speed which I get through that process (I hate renting cars – it seems like such a slow process); and
- Reasonable prices.
I may not be the audience targeted by the repair shop, but if I was, talking about how they could specifically achieve those things would impact me. Instead I start skimming.
The letter goes on to list other items:
- Honest repair advice
- Comfort while you wait
- Commitment to Quality
- Female Friendly
There is nothing wrong with any of those attributes, but they really aren’t compelling benefits to me. They certainly are not unique.
I think if you look at your last executive summary to your proposal, you would see some similarity between these statements made by Company X and those made by you.
So what do you do?
First, you need to know your customers and what they want, value, and for what they will pay. Company X missed with me. Perhaps they are a hit with their intended audience. I don’t care as much about honest repair advice as much as I care about effective repairs that fix the problems.
Second, think from the customers’ perspective instead of your own. Don’t tell me what you are proud of or committed to. Tell me what you are going to do for me and how I will benefit from it.
Third, where possible quantify or make specific the benefits so I know what you are talking about. I would be very impressed by statements such as:
- X% of minor repairs are completed within 2 hours;
- 98% of our repairs are solved on the first visit and do not require a subsequent visit;
- 75% of our current customer have been with us for 7 or more years; or
- 70% of cars participating in our preventive maintenance program have no unscheduled maintenance.
Here is a good example from the same letter:
Each visit begins with the Company X Car Physical. This is our complimentary inspection to provide a snapshot of the overall health of your vehicle. We review this with you and assist in prioritizing your maintenance requirements based on your driving habits, needs and budget. Our goal is to provide you enough information so that you are able to make an informed decision on the maintenance of your vehicle.
Please let me know your thoughts. Take a look at your last proposal. Are you doing the same thing?