How Towing Customers Think.

Today I’m posting a letter from a towing company owner out of Virginia who asked that his company name remain anonymous:

Our towing business has been around for more than 55 years. It’s always had the same name, been in the same location, our trucks are all painted red, and everyone knows who we are and what we do.

Everyone except Sheila.

Sheila found our number on Google, where, thanks to The Tow Academy, we dominate.

Online, our business is consistently listed on the first page for hundreds of keywords. But, outside of Google, we are even more established.  Our “brand” is strong. We work with five law enforcement agencies, we’ve been in all the local newspapers numerous times, and we’re consistently voted #1 by the Chamber of Commerce.

Did I mention that we are very well-known in the community?

But to Sheila, none of that mattered.

All she cared about was the problem she was having that day. Her car wouldn’t start.

Now, Sheila’s no stranger to car problems, but for a multitude of reasons, she never considered calling for a tow truck before today.

Today, Sheila was stranded in a restaurant parking lot with a dead car battery.  Her husband was out of town, and, against her better judgment, she decided to toss the dice and call a tow truck.

I answered the phone, took her information, and suggested we bring out a battery tester and a replacement battery. Sheila agreed, and we were on our way.

Fifteen minutes later, tow truck operator Doug arrived and identified the problem as a loose battery cable.  He tightened the cable, and the car started right up.  Sheila was impressed with the service and decided to purchase the battery anyway.

An hour later, Sheila called to thank us and to tell me that Doug did a great job.  She confessed that she had never called a tow truck before for fear of the unknown.  And that she was pleasantly surprised with not only the service but the ease of doing business with us.

Questioning How Towing Customers Think

After the phone conversation, I questioned why Sheila hadn’t considered calling a tow truck before.   Then it came to me.

As tow company owners, we are so immersed in our own world that we find it hard to understand how someone might not know what to expect when calling for a tow truck.  We see our job as cut and dried. But the general public sees us in an entirely different light. And I suspect much of this has to do with how tow truck operators are portrayed in the movies and on television.

For example, there’s the 1987 movie, Adventures in Babysitting, where a huge, scary-looking tow truck driver waves a long-barreled revolver around, threatening anyone who gets in his way. And then there are the “reality” shows where repo men fist-fight motorists over parking violations.  Where every other word is f-this and f-that, and they’re constantly screaming at each other. It’s no wonder motorists do everything they can to avoid calling for a tow truck.

After thinking it through, I understood how Sheila’s perception of my business, and the towing industry as a whole, were formed. Her preconceived notions about me and towing were never within my control. But what is in my control, as a business owner, is how we handle each interaction and care for our customers. And I believe we took great care of Sheila that day and maybe even softened her stance on towing companies.

When you consistently impress motorists by going above and beyond their expectations, you’re not only providing great service, but you also have the ability to positively impact the industry.

However, if you’re reading this, you may be thinking that the idea of positively impacting the towing industry sounds nice, but when you’ve got a business to run, it’s not an easy thing to do.

Maybe you believe that going above and beyond on a consistent basis isn’t realistic because there are too many variables to contend with. You’ve got dispatcher problems, motor club complaints, unexpected expenses, damages, cranky tow truck operators, and unreasonable customer expectations to deal with.  When you’re juggling all of these problems, how can you focus on anything but the bottom line?

The answer:

  1. First, take responsibility for everything that happens. Stop complaining and making excuses trying to rationalize why things aren’t working out the way you want.
  2. Second, understand that both positive and negative outcomes are a result of your actions or inactions.
  3. Third, document and group problems as they arise in each of the problem areas mentioned above.
  4. Fourth, create written solutions with contingencies for each challenge that arises. These are called operational guidelines.
  5. Fifth, communicate your operational guidelines to your people and reinforce them consistently.
  6. Lastly, empower quality people within your organization with the ability to resolve problems that arise outside your operational guidelines without your involvement. Then review their solutions on a weekly basis and adjust your guidelines when necessary.

When you consistently work on your challenges in this manner, over time, it will inevitably enable you to positively impact your bottom line. And regardless of if these changes influence the general public to begin seeing towing companies in a better light, they will help you grow a more sustainable business and live a happier life.