Most times, when speaking generally and affectionately about this industry, most people are quick to tell you, “This is a people business.” Usually, what that means is that our business relationships come down to the personal relationships, reflective of the quality of the people in this industry with whom we end up doing business. I certainly have little argument with that, noting that I have always been impressed with the quality of character I find in the folks I have come in contact with over the last four decades.
Yet, I think there is more to that statement than meets the eye.
Yes, in the business-to-business dealings we are all involved in, it is good to know the folks you are dealing with, making the transactions smoother and allowing the problems to be easier to resolve. It is hard to be difficult with people you know and trust, and it is hard to take advantage of anyone with which you have a relationship. But there is more to the “people buying from people” aspects of our industry than that.
When it comes to the final customer – the vehicle owner – it is a personal thing for them, and that is demonstrated in countless ways.
First of all, for most of us, our vehicles are both a matter of personal travel and business travel. We use our vehicles to get us to and from work, and often, many employment situations include the use of a vehicle. On top of that, our cars and light trucks provide the means to travel safely and securely, running errands, getting the family where they need to be, etc., etc., etc.
But, even more than that, people consider their vehicles a part of their lives, an inanimate object that we personify in any number of ways.
For example, Automotive.com, an online buyer’s guide to new and used cars, has released the results of a survey showing that 61 percent of all car owners have named their car. The survey found that the most popular name among the respondents was “Beast” with other popular names including Batmobile, Betsy, Big Red, Christine, Lucy, Penny and Silver Bullet.
Yes, car owners customize their vehicles with styling items and other bolt-ons, but, at the same time, they have a relationship with their cars and expect diagnostics, service, and repairs to have a personal aspect to them … not unlike a trip to the doctor.
The survey also found out that 16 years old is the most common age that people get their first car, with 47 percent waiting till after 16.
This should remind all of us that the maintenance and servicing of vehicles is a personal matter for the vehicle owner — a transaction wrought with both emotional and pragmatic implications, a complex set of issues that need to be taken into account at the point of sale and beyond.
People are put out when their vehicle is in the shop, and the expense alone will always have the consumer primed to be dissatisfied – even when expectations are met or exceeded. How we inject this understanding into how we go to market may not be easy, but it is a factor with which we need to be aware.
It is certainly true that we are in a “people business,” and the relationship consumers have with their vehicles is a personal one. That is why it behooves us all to remember to be less mechanical and even more professional, especially at the point of sale.
Otherwise, the consumer will come up for a name for us – and it won’t be one we will like.
Gary A. Molinaro
We encourage you to add your comments below concerning this article.