Your Customer's Work Environment: It's Your Business Too!

The cleanliness of a shop sends a message about value


You have just closed the sale on a shop tool and you bring it into the customer’s garage. After a glance around for a place to set it down, you ask, “Where would you like me to put this?” The reply strikes you as less than enthusiastic: “Set it anywhere.”

Driving to the next shop, you recount the last transaction with the shop owner and how long it took for a decision to be made on the purchase due to the cost. But the very next minute, the tool almost seemed to have no value, as if where it would reside in the shop was of no concern. The reason is this customer pays little attention to organization and cleanliness.

It is your business

It’s easy to dismiss this as the customer’s business. But isn’t the customer’s business ultimately your business? Isn’t a well-organized customer a better customer?

We all get busy, and by design, certain things just do not get the attention they deserve. Sometimes it is paperwork. Other times it could be taking care of stock/inventory. Oftentimes, it is cleaning and organizing the shop.

Years ago, a shop owner asked me what I thought they could do to make the shop more profitable. When I told him a cleaner and better organized shop would be more profitable, he disagreed with me. His view was that it takes too much time to clean and organize the shop each day. “That is time another vehicle could be brought in for repair,” he said. To which I countered, “But it takes longer to find everything.”

This became a running dispute between us. It was his shop to run as he saw fit. But any time he asked my opinion on a shop matter, I would eventually bring the conversation around to the condition of the shop, its appearance and the value of cleanliness and organization.

Every time he came on my truck to purchase a tool he used to have, I would smirk and say under my breath, “My business is okay with the disarray of yours.” He would always see the smirk while laying down the greenbacks and say, “I don’t want to hear it.”

That “little bit extra”

Does it seem odd that a business with spotless floors, that is also very well organized, is more efficient? These businesses generally have the time to do “that little bit extra” that others don’t have time for. At disorganized shops, on the other hand, each job takes longer due to moving, unburying or searching for items needed.

Could it be that “that little bit extra” is what keeps some businesses busier than others? What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Have you ever noticed that a constantly dirty floor always dictates the cleanliness of its surroundings? Without having the ability to literally speak, a dirty floor says a lot!

A shop owner would often ask me why I was so intent on him having a clean floor. I would reply that it is one of the first things a customer sees when they enter the establishment. He found my answer odd since there were so many other things to see in the shop besides the floor. I acknowledged his point; however, I noted that the floor is about the only thing that the majority of his customers pay attention to when they first walk in. If the floor is clean, there is a greater comfort level about the care and attention they and their automobile will receive.

Many shop owners don’t think about this subject due to time constraints and hurrying to make the next sale. But it begs the question: “Just how much money does dirty cost?”

It’s hard to assign a fixed number to the value of organization and cleanliness. But a building built with a strong foundation will stand a long time!

It doesn’t matter if it is paperwork back in the office, the desk in your truck or the floor your customers stand on. Dirty or clean, there is a cost, and a message being sent about value.

Joe Poulin is a former mobile distributor and a current district manager in Gray, Me., for Mac Tools. Send any comments to dpoulin2@maine.rr.com.

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