'What Would You Do?'
Every shop owner runs into 'situations.'
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. Following is a good example of just such a dilemma. What would you do?
As a shop owner, I am in and out of my business and just happened to walk in when I heard our service adviser being challenged by one of our customers. The customer said, "I want to talk to the owner."
The customer had authorized several tests, including taking the steering column apart to learn why her horn didn't work. After locating the source of the problem, it was going to cost her around $200 to fix the problem - not including the testing and disassembly fees she had already authorized. Now she decided she didn't want to pay for any of it.
English is her second language, and she tried to explain that if she had known it was going to cost that much she would never have authorized the work. She felt the service adviser had not explained everything to her.
My adviser had explained it to her the same way we have explained the testing process and fees for many years. We have never had a problem with other customers under similar situations.
Although she spoke fluent English, I suspect that part of the problem may have been due to her having English as a second language, as well as a cultural situation of wanting to make a deal. On top of everything else, a very good, longtime customer had referred her to us.
What would you do?
• Dave Kusa, owner, Autotrend Diagnostics, Campbell, Calif. - "I think the most important part of this situation is that this customer was referred by a very good longtime customer. We have to make sure the outcome does not affect the relationship with the referring customer.
"I would try again to help this customer understand the process and be clear that the problem will be fixed. If an understanding can't be reached, I would then put the column back together without making any repairs and ship the car at no cost if need be and chalk it up to a lesson learned.
"I would also use this to examine the sales procedure for any flaws when dealing with a customer that may not have a good understanding of English, and possibly improve the communication skills of the service adviser with that type of customer."
• Terry Wynter, owner, Terry Wynter Auto Service Center, Fort Myers, Fla. - "Communication is such a critical part of our business and had I walked in on this situation, I would begin by inviting the customer into the shop to see the extent of the work done to locate the problem.
"According to the description, the shop was at the stage between diagnosis and repair, which is the perfect opportunity to do a 'show and tell.' If this visual does not satisfy the customer's objection toward the testing and disassembly fees, I would ask what she thinks is a fair resolution. Using the customer's feedback, I would negotiate toward something that will satisfy the customer, while not giving away the entire job. In this case, it may be in the shop's best interest to settle for payment of the repair and waive the initial fees.
"Then, I would call the customer who made the referral and thank him or her, taking the opportunity to explain what happened from our perspective in order to protect that relationship.
"Last, I would review our communication procedures to see if any changes are necessary to prevent this from occurring in the future."
How I handled it:
I said, I'm very sorry. It sounds like because of your language barrier you didn't understand what he was saying so, therefore, I'm not going to charge you for the testing and everything we have done so far. Instead of satisfying the customer, she became very angry and defensive.
How I wish I had handled it:
Even though I agreed not to charge my customer for the work performed, I had insulted her for not understanding English, which triggered an angry and negative response. I should have apologized with a statement like, "I'm so sorry about the frustration and confusion regarding this situation," and then asked the customer what she would like for me to do to make things right. I also could have asked her what she thought we should have done differently in the sales process. These questions would have forced me to LISTEN, which is ultimately what the customer needed me to do.
My final thoughts
We need to modify our sales process for selling testing fees so that every customer fully understands what he or she is paying for. We should say:
We normally figure $$ for initial testing. Eighty percent to 90 percent of the time the initial testing will reveal what the problem is. If we need to invest additional time, resources and materials to reveal the problem with your vehicle, we will only do so with your prior approval. Is this agreeable with you? With your approval we can get started.
I believe that this verbiage would keep customers from having unrealistic expectations concerning the testing process. If we have a client who does not speak English as a first language, then we may have to repeat it several times in different ways so that there is no confusion.
Remember, if one customer complains, there are many other customers who were unhappy but didn't complain.
AutoInc. Web Site |
ASA Web Site |
A Picture of the Service and Repair Industry |
2010 Elections' Impact on Automotive Service and Repair Industry |
It Doesn't Have to Be Difficult |
'What Would You Do?' |
ASRW Wrap-Up |
Tech to Tech |
Tech Tips |
News Briefs |
Shop Profile |
Net Worth |
Members' Advantage |
Chairman's Message |
Copyright (c) 1996-2011. Automotive Service Association®. All rights reserved.