It should come as no surprise to most that men and women often think differently, and a Minot business has made some changes to take those differences into consideration.
All three locations of Tires Plus Total Car Care - Minot, Minot Air Force Base and Bismarck - became AskPatty.com Certified Female Friendly during the summer. This means all employees who interact with customers have undergone special training to help them more effectively communicate with female customers, who often don't approach subjects like car care in the same way men do.
AskPatty.com is an automotive website for women that offers advice for consumers and training for businesses.
Jarid Lundeen, owner and president of Tires Plus, said he had read about the AskPatty.com certification in several trade magazines and it struck him that there's actually a certification for making a business more female friendly.
During the store's monthly sales meetings, Lundeen said he was always trying to educate the staff on how they could have handled various situations that came up differently. He was constantly reinforcing concepts he knew were covered in the AskPatty.com program, so he decided to have his employees take the training course so everyone would be on the same page.
"It's like the bullet approach versus the shotgun," Lundeen said. "We can randomly talk about these issues, or we take that course and just get it taken care of."
Lundeen said women are more apt to show loyalty to a business that treats them right, but that loyalty can be a double-edged sword if the business wrongs them in some way. He said while women are more likely to tell their friends about good experiences at a business, they also speak more openly about bad ones He said establishing trust with female customers is incredibly important, as is keeping that trust with every visit they make.
"I've always loved dealing with female customers because they're highly educated if they know something about their vehicle, they're very particular about how things are handled, and they're also very loyal, hard-working people," Lundeen said. "They're very good customers once you've got them, but how you communicate with them is different than a guy."
Communication is a key part of the certification, according to Lundeen. He said men tend to ask fewer questions - oftentimes pretending to know what's going on with the car even when they don't because they don't want to appear unintelligent - and just want the work to be completed. Women, on the other hand, generally ask more questions and want to be shown what is exactly wrong with the car and how it will be fixed.
"So it's all about a communication tool to improve the customer relationships with our female customers," Lundeen said. "And with that we've changed a lot of our business techniques to try to mesh with that."
To further help make Tires Plus more inviting to female customers, Lundeen had his wife go through the business and suggest several changes. Among the things they did was add a collection of family DVDs, books and magazines for children so their mothers wouldn't have to constantly keep them occupied. There is also candy and popcorn to munch on, while a coffee machine makes single servings from a wide variety of flavored choices.
"I think moms are really appreciative of the difference, even though it's subtle," Lundeen said. "It's not like it's all of a sudden a big change, we didn't all of a sudden put leather couches in with mom posters on them."
Lundeen has heard feedback from several of his female customers who said they like the store better after those small but important changes.
One of Lundeen's supervisors, Sue Kaliher, also acts as liaison between Tires Plus and AskPatty.com. Lundeen said Kaliher has regular meetings with AskPatty.com and brings in new ideas for the store to consider.
AskPatty.com will even serve as a mediator between Tires Plus and a female customer to resolve any disputes that arise.
The training was done through the Internet over the course of several hours and each employee had to pass a test at the end to show they understood the principles that had been taught. Lundeen said the final material went over brain patterns and emotions, buying habits and case studies, among other things.
"It talked about showroom presentation, magazine presentation, bathroom presentation, how to show, how to explain what's wrong with the car," Lundeen said.
Many of the topics were common sense, Lundeen said, but others surprised him. He wasn't aware of how much more emotional a woman's decision-making process tends to be compared to a man's.
While some employees were already doing the practices covered in the training, others were hearing the information for the first time and found it incredibly useful. Lundeen said getting a consistent message out to his employees that men and women think differently was important, and he believes it will be a big help in giving the female customers who walk through the door the best service possible.
"I think it gets everybody on the same page. That's the biggest thing, is that everybody's thinking the exact same way that went through the class," Lundeen said. "I mean we're going to have differences, but for the most part everybody's heard the information."