Directions: Keeping Appearances

Directions: Keeping Appearances

How your employees look – whether they please or deceive – usually carries a message

I recently visited a local repair shop and watched a scruffy-bearded, pony-tailed tech in dirty, baggy clothes exit the shop and jump in his vehicle and take off for his lunch break. When the shop owner caught me staring at his employee, he exclaimed, “He may not look it, but that is our smartest tech here. That guy can find anything wrong with any car. You wouldn’t believe the things he knows.”

The shop owner also revealed to me that the tech was even one of his highest-paid employees.

The question becomes, does appearance make a technician seem “unprofessional”? Or does a tech’s passion for his job outweigh his “look.” The shop owner answered my query regarding what is the reaction that customers have when they see this tech. He informed me that the tech has as little as possible interaction with the customers.

Yes, it is a shame that customers in our industry are so judgmental. But the reality is, they are. And it’s not just in our industry, but everywhere. And most of the time these judgmental people are making a big mistake. I mean, come on – if you weren’t familiar with Albert Einstein and he was standing next to you on the corner – complete with his signature wiry, white mane, overgrown moustache and wearing baggy slacks with an old wool sweater complete with a few moth holes in it, you may be inclined to offer the guy a few buck to “get back on his feet,” not realizing you just gave your Starbucks coffee money to a genius who was responsible for changing the 20th century.

The issue of personal appearance is a touchy subject for shop owners. In fact, there are mountains of business management books that address this subject. And lecturers get paid good money explaining at seminars the importance of your employees’ upkeep.But do you follow this business advice and try and conform your employees to hygiene guidelines? Or do you “just let ’em be” and keep them away from your clientele, justifying it by saying to yourself, “they’re not hurting anybody”?

It is a difficult dilemma. Ask 100 different shop owners and you may get 100 different answers on what appearance has to do with a shop’s operation. Some may say such unkempt employees hurt the industry’s image. Others may say it’s the technician’s experience, passion and knowledge that counts.

We’d like to hear from you. What are your feelings toward “keeping appearances”? Is it enough just to have your shop’s waiting area clean, neat and comfortable for your customers? Should your tech ever need to be in contact with your customer to discuss further a repair, or do you only use a well-groomed service advisor as the go between?

E-mail us your comments at [email protected] Some of the responses will appear in a future issue of Underhood Service.

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