When our oldest son was about three, my wife and I told him we would paint his room any color he wanted.  His top two choices were a medium blue and yellow.  Not just any yellow, but yellow like Play-Doh yellow.  He settled on the yellow.  Frankly, I couldn’t imagine that any of us would want to live with that color for too long and that I would end up repainting soon.  So I told my son that if he went with the blue, I would give him his own bag of Doritos.  He said, “Blue!”

My wife thought I was exerting undue pressure – I thought I was gauging the extent of his preference for yellow over blue.  Apparently it was less than a bag of chips. 

Maybe it’s just human nature, but when faced with choices, we often let little things swing our decisions.  We used to have this old truck that the boys drove.  One day I noticed a puddle of brake fluid by the right rear wheel.  I took it in to get the leak patched up.  I got a call that the axle seal was also leaking and that the damaged half-shaft would have to be replaced.  I really didn’t want to spend that kind of money on a 20 year old truck and had something else in mind for the money it would take to get it back on the road.  Of course, the work had to be done.  Of course, I knew just slapping it back together would likely lead to an even more expensive (and inconvenient) failure later on.  But I had this little debate going on in my head as I tried to rationalize not spending the money on the repair.

Well, I got the work done.  What won the day was that I had enough knowledge to realize that the repair was more important than whatever fun we were going to have that weekend.  But what if I didn’t have that knowledge?  What if my service advisor were too busy, or unable, to explain it to me?  I might have traded a fun weekend for a frozen axle and an accident. 

I think every service and repair business needs to educate their customers before they are faced with a service or repair dilemma.  Specifically two things: First, get their customers into a maintenance mindset where they understand the general value of preventive maintenance and see the benefits of staying on top of their scheduled maintenance.  Second, a knowledge that fixing problems early is always best because the longer a repair is put off, the worse their safety and performance will be and it will cost more to set things right later on.  Your website and service lobby are perfect places to educate your customers on these concepts.

When customers really get it, they have a good framework for making an intelligent service decision when you present your recommendations.  After all, you’d hate to see them base their choice on cost of a weekend at the lake.

Lance Boldt is Vice President and Co-Founder of AutoNetTV.  AutoNetTV’s digital signage products deliver entertaining and educational TV programming to the lobbies of automotive service and repair businesses as well as digital menu boards and automotive website video content.