Doug lived in a quiet little subdivision on the west side of town. He worked for the A-1 Towing company for a little over a year. He’d moved up quickly due to his hard work and eagerness to learn, so the boss asked if he would participate in the on-call calendar. On-call participation would mean a raise and the opportunity to make extra money from commissions. Being on-call also meant he would take a wrecker home on a regular basis.
The opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time since Doug’s wife was pregnant and they needed the money. But this wouldn’t turn out so well for Doug.
Most of Doug’s neighbors pretty much ignored each other, live and let live, I suppose, but when he started taking the tow truck home, they began to notice. The guy across the street quit parking the wrong way on the curb, and the lady next door quit making small talk when Doug walked his dog. And the entire neighborhood generally resented the existence of the tow truck being parked there.
As the weeks and months passed, Doug’s situation didn’t get any better. Then one day, he received a letter from the City Council informing him that a new ordinance forbids the parking of commercial vehicles on residential streets overnight. He knew this was the work of his neighbors.
Puzzled and upset, Doug set out to understand. He asked fellow employees if they knew why this was happening. “I’m a good neighbor, never bother anyone, and I’m always willing to help. I can’t see why they suddenly don’t like me”. He was told that it comes with the territory.
But he couldn’t take the pressure and decided that, rather than changing their perception, he’d find another job.
This is the world we live in. We can complain about it or do something to change it. But how can you change how 90% of the world views our industry?
The first step to changing public opinion is to stop believing it’s your job to change it. There’s nothing you can do to change how the world views the entire industry. The answer is to change your situation and your little corner of the world. If we all do that, everyone will eventually come around. Yeah, I know it’s asking a lot, but relax. This isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. It took a while for us to get into this situation, so it’s going to take some time to get out.
So the question to ask is, how do you change your situation?
By being involved in charity events, donating to local sports teams, and advertising using your mug on television, online, and elsewhere. This makes your business more human. These are all good ideas that work. Be friendly and visible, and stay in contact. Allow your customers access to you. Return phone calls. Use social media to post personal stuff, silly stuff. Show them that you’re a real person. Doing so will slowly erode those negative stereotypes and help you to build your business.
Before I became involved in the towing industry, I never used the services of a tow truck. My first car was a 1979 Mercury Marquis; it was a four-door monster that seated 20. It often overheated. I remember being stranded a few times, but with the help of friends or family and a tow rope, I was quickly rescued each time.
Why didn’t I call for a tow truck?
A couple of reasons:
- I didn’t know how much it would cost.
- I didn’t know anybody with a tow truck.
My ignorance of the costs involved and because I didn’t know who would show up if I did call a tow truck kept me from considering it. I can’t recall if I chose not to call based on negative depictions of tow truck operators in the media or if it was out of fear of the unknown. I just know that back then, I’d rather take hell from my angry old man than somebody else’s.
I think most towing customers also fear the unknown.
Customers, having a choice, will choose to use your services if they know that a familiar face offering a helping hand is on the way to help during one of their most vulnerable times, even if they’re unsure of the price. A customer will choose to use a company they’re familiar with if you happen to be a nice guy, all the better.
Remember, you don’t need to change the world, just the way people think about your towing business.
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