Anytime I have a discussion with an engine builder, I’ve found our conversation eventually turns to his customers.
We discuss how he can get more, how he can satisfy the ones he has now and, in some cases, how to get rid of the ones he doesn’t want anymore. As you know only too well, this business can be a delicate balancing act.
Customers – they’re the reason each of us does what we do as a profession. But dealing with their idocyncracies can be a study in charity, a lesson in humility and even an exercise in futility…and that can be a good day.
There’s a line – sometimes fine, sometimes very wide – between what they want and what they need and between what they think and what they know. You are expected to walk that line and frankly, sometimes I don’t know how you do it!
There are more resources than ever for engine enthusiasts to educate themselves on the intricacies of their preferred powerplant and of this business itself. An overwhelming amount of detail is out there that can make even the most casual observer sound like a sage veteran.
Heck, even Engine Builder has a history of contributing to the flood of information. Although we only mail printed copies to you and your professional contemporaries, we make each issue available on our website each month digitally. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to access our back issues at www.EngineBuilderMag.com/magazine-archive/. If you haven’t, be aware that your customers have.
How do I know? I get emails on a daily basis from your customers, asking all sorts of interesting questions: “Do you have any tips for removing the valve covers?”
Or, “I want to build a 347 stroker. Can you give me a comprehensive list of parts…and advice along the way?”
Here’s a head scratcher: “Can I replace the engine in my Chevy Sonic with a marine engine? The old one needs some work and I want to add some horsepower.” Not sure if he’s talking an inboard or outboard…
I’ve even been asked, “Can I swap a piston from my 3.0L Ford Taurus with one from a 2.9L Cosworth? The engines are almost the same size.”
It’s human nature, I think, to want to be on the inside. As Americans we’re obsessed with the sordid details of Hollywood royalty and the intrigue of what’s going on in their lives. It’s why, I think, tabloids and gossip rags are so popular. People just want to feel like they have the inside track on how the other half lives.
It’s the same, in a way, in our business. Your customers recognize that the sexiest part of any car or truck is the engine and knowing the details of how the process goes together is exciting for them. They sometimes feel like they get a glimpse behind the curtain, a seat inside the velvet rope, by reading what professionals are doing in the digital version of Engine Builder.
The gossip side of this business can, in many ways, be found in forums. These online chat rooms are popular with enthusiasts for a particular type of engine or a specific brand of vehicle. And they can get nasty.
Should we apologize for giving fans access to the inner sanctum and this ability to talk like they know what they’re saying?
Some engine builders I spoke with recently believe the more conversation the better and remind us all that they work for the customer.
“The best thing I can do is educate you on decsions that you need to make to get the most bang for your buck,” says Chris Graham, Race Engineering, Salisbury, NC. “I work for you, Mr. Customer and, really, I’m not interested in selling motors – I’m interested in selling relationships.”
So, to answer the teaser at the top of this page: When does customer service end? Despite how you may feel some days, it ends when you retire. n