Counter Insight:Patiently work with ?The Expert? customer

Jan. 1, 2020
Parts people spend a great deal of time cultivating and working to retain a loyal customer base. After all, without the customer, there would be no reason to unlock the door every morning. But at what point do you say enough is enough with some of th

Parts people spend a great deal of time cultivating and working to retain a loyal customer base. After all, without the customer, there would be no reason to unlock the door every morning.

A counterperson’s ability to maintain a good working relationship with customers is at least as important as technical knowledge, if not more so. If you look at what’s required to pass an ASE Parts Specialist Certification test, you’ll see that a lot is based on customer treatment both through sales and communication skills.

One section of the task list for the P1 Medium/Heavy Truck dealership test, in particular, caught my eye. It used to read “establish a cooperative relationship with customers and coworkers.” The phrase has been changed to “establish and maintain a cooperative relationship with customers, coworkers and vendors.” To me that is a significant change, but they may have stopped short if they’re not asking technicians to “establish and maintain” cooperative relationships with us.

I’m not talking about the guy you have to pry information out of or explain that since you didn’t build the car you have no way of knowing what options are installed. That’s just normal business. The guy I’m talking about is the one whose main goal in life seems to be making my working hours as miserable as his.

Everybody in this line of work will run into him sooner or later. Many of you know who I’m talking about –– he’s “The Expert.” He’s the one who complains that you never have the part he needs. He’s the guy who says it’s the wrong part when you do have the part. He’s the guy that says his deliveries are always late. And he’s the guy that says perfectly good parts are defective if his customer comes back.

And you know where any of those scenarios lead –– he’ll immediately take it to a personal level and blame you. So, barring physical confrontation, what should you do? Remain calm and stay focused on the original cause of the trouble and do what is needed to fix things.

At what point do you say enough is enough and tell him that you no longer need his business? They may make the decision easy for you by being outright dishonest or constantly delinquent on payments. But sometimes you can’t wait for those problems to occur.

Off the top of my head I can think of three of these guys that I have “worked with” over the last 10 years or so. Two of them still do business with my store on a regular basis and spend a fair amount of money, so I guess we aren’t the idiots they claim we are. It’s just that they’re in the minority and that they’re profitable accounts.

The third guy was one of my customers when I worked at another branch location, and I recently heard he closed up shop and got a job as a road salesman for another parts store. I wish him luck; he’s going to need it. On the other hand, I’m sure he’ll do fine with all the “expertise” that he has. n

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