Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th century Italian economist, maintained that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This idea came to him from an observation that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of his peapods.
This idea has been expanded to include many other examples: 80% of the land is owned by 20% of the population, 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of its customers, 80% of sales are made by 20% of the sales group, and 80% of complaints come from 20% of your customers.
This last one is key: The problematic 20% of your customers wind up influencing how you think about your customer base in general. We see it all the time.
Just listen to some of the forum discussions or shop owners at a gathering and it’s common to hear about some calamity or event; someone else adds to it and the next thing you know everyone is in agreement that these examples are the norm. “Nobody’s willing to pay for repairs. Everybody wants their car tomorrow. Nobody understands the complexity of today’s transmissions” — to name just a few.
The problem with this viewpoint is that it filters down to everyone in the business and, before you know it, everyone has a tainted, negative view of their customers. “What a bunch of jerks” they say.
But it’s an unfair assessment: The fact is, most customers love your work. They find value in your service and expertise. Many would — and do — refer their friends to you. But we don’t see it because we’re so focused on that very vocal 20% who keep us awake at night.
This was a major part of Alex Goldfayn’s message last year at ATRA’s Powertrain Expo. And it’s not just our industry that suffers from this. Practically every business can fall victim to this mindset. It’s natural for us to think about our work and the value of what we do from the complainers’ point of view.
The answer to this is to call customers that you’ve done work for and never heard from again. You may think you’re too busy to spend time doing this, but it’s well worth your time. You’ll be surprised to learn just how happy people are with your work. Some will go on and on about it.
We tried this at ATRA and were stunned to hear all the adulation about ATRA and the people here. Many said that they wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for ATRA. I shared these stories with our staff and it made an immediate impact of the way they viewed their work and the customers at large.
It’s easy and it works.
I recently received a letter from a consumer about an experience they had at an ATRA Member shop.
I’m sharing it with you as a sample of what some people are willing to say about their experiences. And consider this: How many think this way and don’t share it?
We had the pleasure of staying at your Chicot State Park on Memorial Day weekend this year. Unfortunately our truck had transmission problems during our camping trip. We were headed back to Florida from Nevada. Some nice campers told us about a business in town that could help us, Ville Platte Transmission.
We called Alan on Sunday and he returned our call telling us he would work on our truck Monday, Memorial Day. We want to let everyone in your town know how HAPPY we were for his expertise. He not only worked on a holiday to help us get back on the road, he loaned us his truck, and a ladder to fix a problem with our travel trailer. He gave us a ride back to our campsite and returned to pick us up when our truck was fixed.
He did a fantastic job fixing our truck for less than half what a dealer would have charged. Please let everyone know about his business and what a great person he is. We will return to Louisiana in the future to do some more camping.
You probably have letters just like this, hanging on the wall in your office. Take the time to reach out to more of your customers to find out what they’re thinking about you, and make sure to let your staff know just how much they’re appreciated!