Imagine you are at work, in any field, and a male customer comes in an doesn’t trust your opinion just because you are a woman.
What is your number one way of dealing with the situation in a way that creates a lifelong customer?
Let me know in the comments folks.
Sometimes working in a shop seems to be all about proving myself to the male customer. It’s not the most pleasant thing and I wish it didn’t happen. Yet… here we are. Every day it happens, I am confronted by a cis-male customer that seemingly will not trust a word out of my mouth. The only reason for this is plain old sexism.
Talk about reality, am I right? Now, let me break it down for you.
While for the regular customer, namely customers that aren’t cis-men, you can simply explain the problem and break down the cost and repair, a cis-male customer seems to take so much more energy just for a simple repair. In this blog post, I am outlining some of the ways I combat this seemingly ingrained sexism that just comes along with just about every cis-male customer that walks into my shop.
Keep in mind, although these particularly address the cis-male customer, they could be applied to any situation where gaining trust and building a long term relationship with a customer is important.
Do you ever get addressed as baby, honey, sweetie, cupcake etc?This just grates on my nerves honestly. It feels so degrading to be called these pet names by customer, supplier and coworkers. I usually say, “My name is Chaya, I would like to be called that instead please.” Or I hold out my shirt where my name is stitched on and say, “My name is Chaya.”
Part of gaining a customer’s trust is your co-workers having your back. If your customers see that you’re respected, then the team will ask for your input and/or be called upon more to further assist the customer. Subsequently, they are more likely to have a higher level of respect for you as a result.
Furthermore, don’t forget that your customers are always watchingthe way you interact with other customers, co-workers, and bosses. If you take the time to explain and answer questions, then incoming customers awaiting assistance will slowly grow to respect you. When you go through the repairs needed with a technician and are clearly knowledgeable, your customers will notice, and begin to develop a trust in you.
While a lot of shops shy away from technicians in the office, speaking to a tech in front of customers, or a technician being part of the sales process, I encourage it. I want my customers see and hear me interacting with my technician. Showing your customers that you can have an intelligent conversations with a helping direct that technician to look further into specific problems and being trusted and respected by that tech helps build your credibility.
Do you bring your customer to the car and show them what’s going on? If so, then it makes a bigger impact than if a tech were showing them. Doing so will, in return, change their view of you from the dollars-and-cents gal to the expert. This is immensely crucial as they rely need to rely on your breakdown and opinion.
Countless times, you may find yourself going through your resume out loud, with male customers who (in reality) don’t want to listen. For example, even though I have been trained by four tire companies, worked at three dealerships, and formerly an area manager for Sears Auto Center, it’s mainly because of my sex that the impressive credentials may fall on deaf ears without all the other steps and tips.
Information is another way to gain a customers’ trust and respect. Explain everything! Make sure that they feel (and really do) understand exactly what is going on and what the priorities, as well as consequences, are. Customer who do not understand this that contribute to safety failure will likely not fix them, causing them to become hazards on the roads not just to themselves but to other drivers.
Here’s the ugly truth folks… most men are sexist. Also, they may be unaware that they are resulting in thinking that they are equal, justifiable people. Sometimes, we just need to give them a nudge in the right direction without telling them they are to their faces. A mild nudge without the risk of potentially losing our jobs so to speak.
However, there are exceptions to every rule.
For instance, I get asked all the time if I am the owner’s wife or daughter. Typically in those situations, I gently educate that women sometimes hold jobs based on their own merits, and not on the parent or spouse’s recommendation and approval. Explaining to the customer that they’re being sexist and showing him how it can come across sometimes, also helps build respect and trust. Overall, it’s all about being 100% honest and saying things as they are.
Hopefully, a few of the above ways I navigate the cis-male-dominated industry, will inspire a new way for you to handle your own industry.
Melissa, how do you deal with sexism male customers?
"When I'm at a show, most people I meet have heard of me. It was difficult at first, but I gained trust each time I showed up with a different vehicle of mine that I repaired. My shop is more of a hobby shop, not repair shop. We have 14 vehicles and I use the office area to teach classes. A friend suggested I teach classes to females and I've had an overwhelming response from males. Their #1 reason is that men aren't born knowing this stuff and I've opened classes up to all."
I had the pleasure of becoming virtually connected with Melissa via her Facebook group Chick with a Wrench, and let me tell you folks this woman is incredible. After suffering a traumatic brain injury in 2008 and years of struggling without rehabilitation, she learned she also had a heart condition. Her cardiologist suggested she find a hobby.
It was then that she found a 1967 Mercedes 250s for sale on a Facebook yard sale page August 2014. Melissa has been working on cars for the last three years, rescuing old cars from craigslist and restoring them. One year ago she opened her own shop in Las Vegas, NV. Melissa is a huge shoes fan, and has closets full of heels and is know for her wooden cane with a brass handle.
The car in the photo with Melissa was rescued for $250. She now has the car up and running in fantastic condition. There is a little more work to be done, but it’s almost done to her requirements. The car was then brought the car all the way to Amelia Island, FL to a Mercedes Benz Cars and Coffee event. Although she ended up missing the show, Melissa still met with officials from Mercedes Benz Club of America. She owns 6 BMW’s and 4 Mercedes Benz. In her spare this she enjoys going to car shows and meeting other enthusiasts who share her passion for cars.
Melissa can be reached via email at [email protected]