This is #11 and last in my series of Old Rules of Business That Still Matter. I hope you've found them interesting and useful. I've had tremendous response to the Old Rules, so I plan to combine them into a free ebook. These are by no means the be-all/end-all to Old Rules that should still make a difference, but I think they're good start. Thanks for following these and sharing them.  

HugAs many of you know, I recently gave a speech to a group of auto repair shop owners. 559 of you helped me out by taking a short survey about your own experiences with auto service and repair. It was extremely helpful, thanks to all who participated! (BTW, for those who misunderstood, this was not my first speaking gig. It was something like my 1,476th paid presentation. Speaking at conferences is a big part of my business!)

In case you couldn't tell by some of the survey questions, my audience of auto repair shop owners were all female. Obviously, women are in the minority in the automotive aftermarket industry, so these were a unique bunch. Needless to say, I had a blast. Women are ALWAYS a great audience.

In my survey, I asked people where they get their cars serviced and how they selected that service center. 53.7% of respondents said they go to an independent auto repair shop. I asked those specific respondents how they found their shop and exactly 80.0% reported they were REFERRED by a friend or peer. I followed up with one open-ended question: WHY do you keep going to this shop? 279 people responded.

There was clearly a common theme:

  • We have established a good working/professional relationship with this local shop owner.
  • I am much more likely to meet the owner before I need a repair.
  • Know the Service Writer personally.
  • They make me feel comfortable. They also are not trying to sell me stuff I don't need.
  • They proved they weren't just trying to run up the bill. I trust they're just interested in keeping my car in good shape.
  • Owned by local family in business for over 50 years. A reputation for being completely honest and reliable. 

We've had a similar experience servicing our VW Super Beetle Turbo (our motto: You'll run out of guts before you run out of car!) My best buddy here referred us to European Auto Repair, so we took the Bug there for some brake work. Paul (the owner) was outstanding. He's a young guy – not yet 30, but he's already built a thriving business. He understands European cars and he understands how to take care of his customers. If we have a problem, Kay just calls Paul.

Read Paul's reviews on Google Maps (enter "European Auto Clinic loc: Federal Way, WA" in the search) and you'll see comments very similar to those in my survey. I'm also sure he gets most of his business from referrals. So what's his secret?

I think Paul cares, truly cares about his customers. 

This is no small thing. It amazes me that at such a young age, Paul gets it, because IMNSHO most companies don't. Paul shows he cares by not taking advantage of anybody…by helping people save money…by showing customers how they can do something themselves and not have to pay him to do it…by getting my wife in as soon as she needs rather than make her wait two days for an appointment…by learning more about us every time we are there…and by asking about things he learned in previous visits (how's Kelly doing at Portland State?).

Does your cable company care about you? How about your wireless company? Credit cards? Bank? Insurance company? Drug store? Department store? Gas station? Car dealership? Maybe some do, but most likely, most don't.

And what does it mean when I say "care about me?" I think it goes beyond trust. Trust means I rely on somebody to have integrity, to do the right thing, to do what he/she said they were going to do and stand behind their word. A supplier can develop a trusting relationship with me, but that doesn't mean they care about me.

When someone cares about me, they are concerned about me. They look out for me. They have my bests interests at heart, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because they want my life to be better if they can help it. You almost feel like, if you had the flu, they would bring chicken soup. And maybe some would.

Am I getting all touchy-feely, kumbaya here? Well, maybe, but I don't even LIKE Joan Baez.

I am coming full circle. In my first Old Rule of Business That Still Matters, I reminded, "People don't do business with businesses. People do business with people." And this final rule adds one more line: People want to do business with and want to tell their friends about people who care. Which brings us to Old Rule of Business That Still Matters #11:

He Who Cares The Most Wins

Do you care about your customers? Do you know their kids' names and ages? Do you know that on Sundays your customer sings in the church choir or is leaving for China next week to adopt an unwanted baby girl? Do you know that your customer was in the Navy and always dreamed of building a school in Kenya?

Is it important to know stuff like that in order to care? Probably not, but when you care about people, you just naturally learn things about them. And they learn things about you. You become friends. Maybe not I-can-call-them-to-get-me-out-of-jail-in-Mexico friends, but friends nonetheless.

Of course, I don't WANT to be friends with my cable company or credit card company. I just want to trust them. (HA! That's not going to happen!)

But you aren't the cable company, are you?