As part of my reporting for an article on service department organization that will appear in the February issue of Boating Industry, I had a fun conversation with Valerie Ziebron, a legendary and very charming industry trainer. She’s one of the most popular speakers at MDCE, and her evaluation forms typically gush with adoration.
Valerie is motivating by design — her demeanor, intonation and what she says all get people fired up, whether it’s over the phone, or in a classroom seminar. We can do things better, she excitedly proclaims, and it will make everyone happier, from owners to customers. Her advice all sounds plausible and common sense: focus on your presentation.
I poised a question about the moment you tell a customer something else is wrong with their boat beyond the reason that brought them in.
“Doesn’t that bother some people to bring it in for one thing, but then be handed a list of everything else that’s wrong — or potentially wrong — with your boat?”
I’ve felt my face blush with anxiety when being told by a mechanic that something of mine needed expensive work. This moment is never a positive moment. Being a half-hearted mechanic myself, I am always skeptical unless I have seen, heard, felt or smelled evidence that something was going wrong.
Valerie cut right through my hypothetical anxiety. The right presentation, she said, transforms such a moment like that into something that’s reassuring rather than uncomfortable.
The best-case scenarios, she says, are shops that use color-coded information sheets — green, yellow and red — for items that are good to go, those that need eventual attention and issues that need to be immediately addressed for safety or equipment preservation. She also gave an example of a service employee that calmly looks over the boat with the customer and touches anything that’s obviously amiss, giving the customer the opportunity to say what’s up with that — and for the tech to gauge their level of concern about the problem.
Instead of telling a customer what’s wrong and immediately saying how much it’s going to cost, Valerie advocates providing them with the relevant information and advice, presenting it with simple visual diagrams to review and then allowing them to make the choice on how to proceed.
I’m neurotic, and making quick financial decisions standing in front of a counter puts me in a scary place. Colors, soft advice and putting me in the driver’s seat could turn a terrifying encounter into something pleasant and comforting. It’s the kind of place I’d return to, and tell like-minded friends and family about.
How do customers feel when you’re presenting an expensive list of to-do items? While some customers aren’t concerned with price and just want everything fixed at once to avoid hassles, others like me need to feel like we’re not getting upsold a list of unnecessary items.
Presentation matters and, for high-strung customers like me, it’s everything.