The joy of firing a customer

By Ken Newton, CEO VASA

I’m now giving lessons in how to fire customers. Yes, fire them, show them the door and ‘take your clapped-out heap of a car with you.’ Andy’s plea to workshop owners was about the aftermarket air conditioning industry putting in place some simple strategies to counter the apparent negative image and poor level of public trust.

There are many ways to win public confidence, Andy explained, and then listed a number of great ideas.

This is all well and good, and VASA has been telling our people the same thing for some years. But my contention is that as a workshop smartens itself up, puts on a bold and professional new public face, it follows that it may very well attract a better class of customer.

Nobody with real money wants to spend it in a broken down back-street workshop run by grubs, but put on a coat of paint, act professionally, upgrade skills through training and suddenly you are starting to look like a real alternative to the dealership down the road.
This is all fine and dandy, say many of our members, but now we really need to get rid of the time wasters, the tyre kickers and the half-smart rev-heads who want everything on the cheap, or worse still, buy cheap or second hand parts and bring them in for the workshop to fit.

So conditioned are workshops to accepting anything that comes in the door “because we need the money”, that it’s easy to forget the low profitability, the time wasting, the frustration and the poor self esteem which always accompanies these customers.
Most retail business people have, at some stage, cracked the joke ‘If it were not for customers, running this business would be a breeze’. Customers can indeed be a pain, but you can do something about those problem customers – fire them. It’s one of the most satisfying things you can do.

There were many times in my own public relations business that I had to make a snap decision about whether I was really desperate enough, financially, to do business with people who I instinctively knew would try to shaft me, and make demands which ultimately would only cost me money, not make me money.

Many times the potential client would say, ‘But you’re so expensive’. My stock reply was, ‘Compared to what?’ I offered and charged for professional services that delivered successful outcomes. I never gave in, never buckled on price, and was not interested in any competitive quote —I made sure my client understood that. Take it or leave it (said convincingly and with due deference).

There are enough good customers out there and they are looking for the good workshops. But a concerted PR effort is needed to explain their point of difference, and why they are good at what they do.

Sometimes the only reason people question price is that they really don’t understand the degree of skill required to solve their problem. Explain it well, and the price is no longer a talking point.

The Mobile Air Conditioning Society’s blog has been honored as the best business to business blog in the Automotive Aftermarket by the Automotive Communications Awards and the Car Care Council Women’s Board!

When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.

If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, click here for more information.

You can E-mail us at or visit to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Click here  to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.

The 33rd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Training Conference and Trade Show, Be the Best of the Best will take place February 7-9, 2013 at the Caribe Royale, Orlando, FL.


About macsworldwide

Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Founded in 1981, MACS is the leading non-profit trade association for the mobile air conditioning, heating and engine cooling system segment of the automotive aftermarket. Since 1991, MACS has assisted more than 600,000 technicians to comply with the 1990 U.S. EPA Clean Air Act requirements for certification in refrigerant recovery and recycling to protect the environment. The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide’s mission is clear and focused--as the recognized global authority on mobile air conditioning and heat transfer industry issues.
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