'What Would You Do?'
By T.J. Reilly, AAM
Every shop owner runs into ‘situations.’ How they handle them is important.
Editor’s note: Shop owners run into “situations” all the time – situations that leave them scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to resolve the issue fairly to everyone concerned. They want to make the right decision in solving a dilemma, but things are not always black and white. Sometimes there are gray areas.
A fellow shop owner who wants to remain anonymous presented the following situation to T.J. Reilly, AAM:
A customer came in with an overheating problem. The water pump had already been replaced, so the shop figured it was OK. The shop's technicians continued with all their routine checks and found hydrocarbons in the cooling system, indicating a head gasket failure. They then proceeded to replace the head gasket. They also had the cylinder head pressure tested. After reassembly they still had the issue of overheating and hydrocarbons in the cooling system.
At this point, they removed the water pump and found it to be OK. Then they removed the cylinder head again and had it rechecked. They also reinspected the block and it looked good as far as they could tell. They did notice some slight markings on No. 1 cylinder wall but no obvious cracks. They put it back together for the second time and the same problem still existed.
Reilly's friend and fellow shop owner asked him, "We have now replaced the head gasket twice trying to solve this problem. Our customer doesn't want to pay for anything since we haven't fixed the problem.
"What would you do?" That's the question AutoInc. put to two ASA members. Their replies follow:
• Gene Morrill, AAM, ASE master technician and owner of Certified Automotive Specialists, Glendora, Calif. - "Hydrocarbons in the cooling system almost always mean an internal engine problem.
"I assume the shop found a head gasket issue the first time or they would not have continued with the repair. Since the head gasket has been replaced not once, but twice and the cylinder head pressure tested, the obvious problem would be with the engine block.
"At this point in the repair, assuming you have customer authorization for an 'X' amount to do the head gasket replacement, I would regroup, be confident and offer several solutions to solve this situation. The customer and the shop must agree or nobody wins. Here are the options I would offer:
"1. Quote a complete engine replacement with everything on it and the best warranty available, credit the customer all of the costs incurred so far (for the head gasket replacement) toward the engine replacement.
"2. Quote a bare-bones engine replacement with limited warranty and credit back some of the money for the head gasket replacement.
"3. Thank them and walk away; charge the customer nothing.
"Take responsibility and be confident. Giving the customer options is important to save a relationship and the credibility of the shop. Fix the customer, and then fix the car. Try to find a reasonable way to work through this; however, there is always that one customer you should let walk away; take your losses and hopefully gain knowledge from the experience."
• Merle Pfeifer, AAM, owner of Sparks Car Care, Federal Way, Wash. - "I am directing my answer to this question as a customer relations problem and will not address the mechanical questions that automatically come to mind.
"What would I do as a shop owner in the same situation? The first thing I would do is take the emotion out of the situation. I know that's easier said than done. Here is how I do it: There are three words that guide me through these types of situations and in our shop we live by them. In order of importance they are:
1. Quality. Did we use the best parts, vendors and technician skill level for the job?
2. Service. Did we go beyond what was expected when providing service and did we give added value? People are better informed and more assertive when requesting service these days. Knowing this, when we encounter problems we need to fix them as soon as possible, without hassles or excuses.
3. Integrity. Did we approach the job honestly with sincerity and repair our customer's vehicle correctly, completely and fairly? If the answer to these questions is "yes," then you have done everything possible to make your customer not just happy but want to return.
"In this case I don't feel the three questions were answered with a 'yes.' The original problem was never repaired and the customers' expectations were not met.
"To salvage the customer, I would find out what was causing the problem either by continuing to spend more time and money diagnosing or seek outside help from someone who has seen this problem before. There is someone, somewhere who has seen this problem and is willing to help. If you are not willing to make this commitment, then you need to put your customer's car back the way you found it and refund all his money.
"Whenever possible, we need to protect our most precious commodity: our customers. I have found that - by making our mission and priorities quality, service, and integrity - our customers become satisfied and loyal and tell their friends and colleagues about us."
How would Reilly handle the "situation?" Following is what he says:
"This type of repair always requires the most amount of documentation on the RO and time educating the customer.
"The head gasket job should never have been sold to the customer. The customer should have been sold a 'remove cylinder head and inspect.'
"Two estimates should have been given to the customer. The first estimate is to remove the cylinder head and inspect. This estimate would not include reassembly. The second estimate would be to remove the head and reassemble if the customer wanted to drive the car away without doing any other repairs. In other words, if the head gasket was not actually blown apart and it needed an engine.
"In addition, we would suggest having the cylinder head pressure tested, especially if we had doubts about the head gasket being bad. If the cylinder head tested 'good,' we would recommend replacing the engine.
"From what my friend and fellow shop owner told me, I don't believe he sold the job properly, and the customer did not receive what he or she was sold. I would prefer to not charge the customer for the second head gasket replacement and suggest to my friend that he not charge for the first head gasket replacement either if the customer were to have him replace the engine.
Ultimately, I believe my friend may have to eat the entire job because of the way it was sold.
"By the way, I've been in the exact same position and I give special thanks to Jim Piraino for setting me straight many years ago!"
Editor's note: James "Jim" Piraino, AAM, is the former owner of Camarillo Car Care Center, an ASA shop in Camarillo, Calif. He is now a consultant for Bob Cooper, an AMI-approved instructor.
T.J. Reilly, AAM - the author of this feature - is the owner of Same Day Auto Service, an ASA member-business in Clackamas, Ore.
ASA's Code of Ethics
AutoInc. Web Site |
ASA Web Site |
Cash for Clunkers Not as Simple as One Might Think |
EPA Takes Wrong Step in Reducing Emissions |
'What Would You Do?' |
Internet Technology: What You Need to Know |
Every Employee Has a Goal |
Guest Editorial |
Tech to Tech |
Tech Tips |
Around ASA |
Shop Profile |
Net Worth |
Stat Corner |
Members' Advantage |
Copyright (c) 1996-2011. Automotive Service Association®. All rights reserved.