The course goes on to tell us the way these emotions are expressed can determine our driving performance, either temporarily or permanently. The course notes that emotions can color our behavior and, when out of control, cause us to do unintelligent and even dangerous things. In fact this truth not only applies to driving a car, but can also apply to making any intelligent decisions. One of these is deciding where to take a vehicle after an accident.
People generally come only when they and or their vehicle have suffered damage. For the driver this may include shock and pain. They come to have something fixed. They come when they are in a highly vulnerable state. They often come when they are caught up in the powerful negative emotions that follow pain of loss. If you are lucky, by the time a car owner comes to you, he or she will have already moved beyond the initial shock and disbelief brought on by the accident.
Most buying decisions are emotional decisions. Most choices of repairer decisions are emotional decisions arising out of one particular emotion: FEAR! Why do damaged car owners go to the body shop suggested by their insurance company or agent? Because they are afraid the work won’t be properly guaranteed. Or because they fear complications that won’t be covered by their insurance, that may cost them out-of-pocket money. Fear also motivates people to go to shops referred by their friends, their attorney, their usual mechanic and just about anybody else they think will prevent them from getting burned as they shop for a service they generally know very little about.
It is at this point in the customer’s life that a shop estimator steps in. How he or she handles this prospective customer determines whether or not the vehicle is left at the shop to be repaired. It’s likely that few estimators realize the emotional consequences of what they say and do at this point. And the fact that more than half of these prospects may be women puts an even higher importance on the handling of emotions. A team from Cambridge University led by Professor John Suckling has found key differences between the brains of men and women. In women, parts of the brain linked to the emotions, calculating risks, and the ability to listen were more prominent. In men, on the other hand, the areas of the brain tied to motor skills and co-ordination were denser and larger. In general, this indicates that women are better listeners, while men take more risks. I’ve interviewed estimators in a number of shops. I found that a female estimator often had a better closing ratio, especially with female customers. Men are apparently more likely to talk while women tend more to ask and listen. Training estimators in listening skills could increase a shop’s volume and profitability.
Fear and anxiety often come about because of a lack of understanding. A vague pain in the body can cause all kinds of wild speculation about what might be going wrong, but once the pain has been diagnosed and a remedy has been prescribed, most fears will be alleviated unless the pain is truly related to a life-threatening condition. Similarly an engine noise or other inexplicable noise in a customer’s car can raise all kinds of fears about serious problems until the exact reason for the noise is known and the necessary repair specified. Educating a car owner still suffering from the shock of a recent accident may not be an easy task, but it can be by far the most effective sales tool to ease the person’s fears and doubts.
An old proverb says: I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand. When fear or anxiety is present, solid contact and sensory perception will have a much stronger impact than words. Perhaps this goes back to childhood when we frequently fell and bruised ourselves. At those times, a loving mother held us, rubbed the sore spot or kissed the injured part. While there were probably words of reassurance, the physical touch is what we most remember as alleviating our shock, our pain, our fear and anxiety. It might be a useful sales tool to have a damaged part (like a fender or hood) and an identical perfectly repaired part set up as a demonstration prop. As part of doing an estimate and selling the job, it could be useful to have a prospective customer touch the damaged part and the repaired part to really feel the difference in paint finish, points where welds had been made, dents filled, etc. Prospects coming away with a solid sense of having touched an expertly finished end product should be less fearful of having work done where they have actually “experienced competence.”