What Would You Do?
Every shop owner runs into 'situations.' How they handle them is important.
If you're a shop owner, you run into "situations" nearly every day. You want to make the right decision in solving a dilemma, but things are not always black and white. Sometimes there are gray areas.
For example, T.J. Reilly, AAM, owner of Same Day Auto Service in Clackamas, Ore., ran into this situation:
"A customer brought in her 1998 Honda Civic with 105,000 miles on it for a timing belt and water pump replacement," said Reilly. "The car ran fine. It just needed some routine maintenance. The work was done and the following day, the customer called and said the car was overheating and that it did not overheat before we worked on it.
"After having the car towed in, we discovered that the thermostat would not open. We replaced the thermostat, and now the car is running fine.
"The customer does not want to pay for the towing or the thermostat replacement since it worked fine before we serviced the car."
What would you do and why?
That's the question AutoInc. put to three members of the Mechanical Division Operations Committee. Their replies follow:
- Rick Baker, AAM, Rick Baker's Auto Service Inc., Pleasant Hill, Ohio - "This is definitely one of those awkward circumstances that every shop owner has nightmares over. I guess the key is communicating the repair procedure of what should be included in the work at the beginning.
"From past experience, I have learned to always recommend replacing the thermostat during any service or repair of the cooling system. Especially on high-mileage vehicles. This is usually an easy sale and great insurance from a potential comeback. If the customer declines the thermostat, then you have documentation.
"But what should we do now? If the customer has been a loyal customer, I would apologize for any inconvenience and take care of the situation at hand and consider it a learning experience. Thank them for their business and any future business. It's definitely better to attempt to repair a relationship with a customer then have a disgruntled customer."
- Mike Brewster, AAM, Gil's Garage Inc., Burnt Hills, N.Y. - "Here at Gil's Garage it is our goal to create long-term relationships with our clients. With this in mind, when we run into these types of situations I always try to look at it from the customer's perspective.
"Every situation has its own set of circumstances and in this case, due to the very short time period between the maintenance work performed and the overheating issue, it would be difficult at best to convince any customer the two were not related.
"Therefore I would bear all expenses related to the thermostat replacement and the tow.
"I would, however, explain to the customer that 'it is my professional opinion that the thermostat failure was an untimely, unforeseen incident, totally unrelated to the maintenance work performed.
'Because this untimely failure occurred so recently after the maintenance work was performed by us, as a good faith gesture we are going to accept full financial responsibility for the tow, the diagnostic time and the thermostat replacement.
'I apologize for any inconvenience this unforeseen incident may have caused but hope that this good faith gesture will demonstrate to you how serious we are about our commitment to customer satisfaction.'
"I would follow this up with a phone call in two or three days to make sure the vehicle was operating satisfactorily."
- Howard Pitkow, Wagenwerx Inc., Wyndmoor, Pa. - "If a problem like this happens, the first step would be to arrange to have the vehicle towed in for inspection. Immediate attention and good communication between the shop and the customer is most important.
"Upon inspection, if there were any indication that the overheating was a result of a faulty repair done by us we would take full responsibility. We would make the necessary repairs and provide a free rental car while doing so. Afterward we would offer a restaurant gift certificate as an apology for the inconvenience.
"Following a timing belt replacement, we check for things like proper radiator fan operation before returning the vehicle to the customer. If there were a problem with the engine thermostat it would show up in our post-repair inspection and test drive. If the overheating was a coincidence and not the result of anything we did, I would explain the situation and provide an estimate for repairs. I may decide to not charge them for the tow as a gesture of good will."
How did Reilly handle the problem?
Reilly said, "We ended up paying for the towing and thermostat replacement. But what we ended up doing is not as important as the 'why.' We paid for it because the technician who worked on the car didn't follow procedures. Anytime a car with that many miles on it comes in for that type work, we recommend replacing the thermostat. Since the customer was just here and we didn't make that recommendation, I felt like it was our fault. We're the professionals and we just didn't do our job. We also paid for the towing and thermostat replacement in the interest of good customer relations. We want that customer to come back!"
Editor's Note: Because the above article has so much to do with ethics, maybe it's a good time to remind readers that ASA has a Code of Ethics. To review it, go to the ASA Web site, www.ASAshop.org. Click on "About ASA," then "Code of Ethics." If you have an ethical dilemma that you would like to share with readers, please send an e-mail to editor@ASAshop.org. Your "situation" may be spotlighted in an upcoming issue.
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