Dealerships Shouldn’t Say, ‘I Don’t Know’

Every staff member can’t know everything. I certainly don’t know everything, but to say, “I don’t know,” is inexcusable.

I have a compound miter saw, which needed a new blade recently, so the other day, I went to a local shop that sells all kinds of tools. You name it, they probably have it. In some ways, it’s much like a powersports shop in that the equipment is specialized, which means the staff must have specialized knowledge.          

Unfortunately, I didn’t take note of the blade size I needed. It could have been a 10-inch or a 12-inch. There was a fellow sitting at the service counter, so I asked him what size he thought it would be. His exact words were, “I don’t know. It could be either,” and then, he sat there, staring at me.

Of course, I already knew my options were one or the other. That’s why I asked him which one it could be. He continued to stare at me. My saw was older, but the model had been made for a long time.

He was still staring at me. This kind of interaction could happen at any store, and perhaps it has happened to you. But, I hope it never happens in your dealership.

I realize that every staff member can’t know everything. I certainly don’t know everything, but to say, “I don’t know,” is inexcusable — unless it’s followed up by, “But let me find out for you.” There were many ways he could have found the answer. He could have asked another staff member. He could have looked online at that brand of saw to see which blade I had. (That’s what I did, finally.) He also could have looked in my history, because I had bought other blades for that saw, and we could have seen what size it was.

But, he just sat there staring at me. I have always had two rules at my shop. One is that “I don’t know,” is not good enough, unless it’s followed up by, “But I’ll find out!” There is almost always a way to find out what the answer is. Parts fiches. Catalogs. Google. Maybe there is someone at your shop who has that knowledge. Sometimes, just asking the customer more questions about his quest will help you find the way. And, if you cannot find the answer immediately, get that customer’s phone number, and make it your hobby to find the answer. Call him back as soon as you get that answer, or at least keep him apprised of your search as you proceed. That’s how you build customer loyalty.

We are there to provide parts, accessories and units. In this day and age, you have to provide exceptional service so that customers will come to your shop instead of the many other places, including online, that they could go. Again, don’t just stare at the customer.

The second rule I have is, “One more thing.” Soon after I purchased my shop, a customer called me and reamed me out. Why, you ask? He’d come in to get what he needed to change the oil on his bike. When he got home, he realized he hadn’t gotten everything. He’d also wanted an oil filter, but he’d got to talking to the parts person and forgot to get one.

Some people I’ve relayed this story to have said it was his fault for not remembering. I looked upon it as a failure to sell. I told him to come in, and I gave him an oil filter. He remained a customer for many years after that.

That’s when I instigated the “one more thing” standard operating procedure (SOP). If someone wanted oil, does he need an oil filter? Does he need a crush washer? If he buys a tire for his dirt bike, does he need a tube? If he buys a tube, how is the tire doing? Does he have enough tire spoons? New chain? How are the sprockets? New engine parts? Do you need the gaskets? Is he getting a new helmet? Does he need a tinted shield for it? A new jacket? How good is his old rain suit?

Just ask questions. Think about what the client may need to finish the job. There’s almost always something else the customer might need. He may not know what he needs until you raise the question. Be the expert. You don’t want to force someone to buy something he doesn’t need, but hopefully your questions will short-circuit any frustrations he may have.

Just don’t sit there staring at them.

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