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March/April 2003

Customer Service
tips for quality service

Selling Safety
by Carl Tompkins

Often I’m asked the difference between selling and marketing. Marketing involves adopting a philosophy aimed at positioning your company, products and services within a given industry. The goal is to differentiate your company, products and services from the competition in a manner that would attract customers. Selling is the communication of such differentiation to ensure that customers learn why they should select your company over a competitor.

New Value
When customers shop only by price, they are admitting how little they know or understand in making a value-based judgment. If you feel that price is all that matters to your customers, an opportunity exists for you to make a difference. 

One subject carrying an enormous amount of value to customers is safety. Ask yourself this: does every customer coming into contact with your company understand that auto glass installation is regulated federally and why? Do they understand that there is a national standard that ensures safe auto glass installation? Do customers understand what steps must be taken by glass shops to protect the integrity of their vehicles and safety of their occupants? Finally, do they understand the potential consequences of not knowing these answers? I would wager that very few people calling in for a quotation would be able to answer “yes” to any of these questions. 

Educating Customers
One example of how best to relay such education is while on the phone. Note a portion of our CSR training script that demonstrates an effective means of introducing the education of safe auto glass installation to a potential customer that would enable him to answer “yes” to the majority of the previously stated questions and, in turn, make a better value-based decision. 

     CSR: While I’m finishing up on the computer to determine your price, I wanted to ask if you were aware of the new installation regulations and standards that glass shops must follow to ensure your safety.

     Customer: No, not really.

     CSR: May I take a moment to share this information?
Customer: Most certainly!

     CSR: Due to design changes, your windshield is now classified as a safety device and must be installed according to code to make sure that it provides proper restraint of passengers and strength for airbag deployment in the event of an accident. Were you aware of this?

     Customer: No, I wasn’t. What type of code are you referring to?

     CSR: There is an ANSI/AGRSS standard that defines the required procedures for auto glass technicians to follow in order for your windshield to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. As you consider where to have your glass replaced, please make sure to know if your technicians have current certification, abide by this standard and provide you the specific drive time at which your car can be released. This ensures that the mandated adhesive system reaches its required strength. In your particular case, your car requires the use of a non-conductive and high-modulus urethane to meet car manufacturer’s specifications. It will require three hours before the car can be driven.

     Customer: Wow! This is the first I’ve heard of these specifics. I’m wondering why other glass shops haven’t shared this information?

     CSR: I’m concerned and sorry to hear this. Everyone is bound by these practices and should be following them in order to protect the OEM integrity of your car while helping ensure your safety. We take these requirements very seriously at our company and, while promising to be competitive, we can’t afford to cut any corners that might jeopardize the safety of your family. I do hope this makes sense!

     Customer: Absolutely, and thank you for filling me in!

     CSR: You are most welcome. We might not be the cheapest, but no one exceeds our attention to safe installation practices. Our success and future depends on providing our customers this value. Now, let’s finish up your quotation and then determine what steps we could take to serve you best.

Having reviewed this portion of context, the key is to focus on the flow of conversation that the CSR is driving toward through proper questioning skills. Note how safety was introduced and the benefits that customers receive when they make this subject part of the buying process. Also important is the “high road” the CSR took by showing concern rather than criticism toward the company’s competition. This goes a long ways toward building trust with the customer. Ultimately, teach these points to each person who speaks to customers on the phone.

Incorporate safety throughout your marketing platform. Sell safety during every sales call. The AGRSS standard provides an excellent base of material and concept to create this advantage. Becoming a registered shop through the AGRSS credentialing process provides a quick and cost-effective means of demonstrating your association with all safety-related subjects. Signage, technician patches, registration certificates and more all go into supporting your sales.

Customers should always aim at achieving the best deal on any product or service they need to buy. The true definition of “lowest price” should be “the least amount of money invested to gain the final performance and support required.” This is why I’ve always been a fan of the advertising motto of Fram Oil Filters, which is “You can pay me now or pay me later.” The fact of the matter is that “paying me now” may show a higher invoice while “paying me later” always exceeds the invoice amount many times over. This is why I refer to “invoice cost” as “initial cost.” Your objective is to prevent your customers from learning this lesson the hard way through the education you can and should provide. Safety sells! 

Carl Tompkins is western states area manager for the Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich.


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