WWYD: Customer complains he could have gotten part cheaper

A first-time customer, who was referred by another customer, came in with a Nissan Pathfinder that had a driver’s window that wouldn’t work. After removing the door panel and testing the switch, wiring and motor, it was determined that the vehicle needed a window regulator and window motor.

The service adviser quoted the customer a price for an “OE equivalent part made by Dorman.” The customer said he could get a regulator/motor on the internet for a lot less. The adviser said he was welcome to bring his own part, but that there wouldn’t be any warranty. The customer told the adviser to go ahead with the repair.

One week after the repair, the customer returned to the office complaining that the window motor sounds different from the other windows. The adviser informed the customer that an aftermarket part was installed, and now the customer is claiming that the adviser said he was going to install a genuine Nissan part.

In addition, the customer complains that he was charged more for the aftermarket part than what the dealer charges for a Nissan part and wants to know how much the adviser marked up the parts, because he could have purchased the part for a quarter of the price on the internet.

What would you do?

Ed Cushman
C&H Foreign Auto Repair
Spokane, Wash.

There are multiple issues in this situation. And, improperly handled, the business will not only have diminished its reputation but lost a new customer.

The adviser quoted an “OE equivalent” part. As a customer, I would interpret this as one that operates the same as the failed OE part(s). Customers want repairs that equal or improve performance, but it seems that, as an industry, we often don’t pay close enough attention to the quality of materials or products that we supply.

In fairness, it’s difficult to be 100 percent sure of what’s the best quality because re-boxing is common, However, to enable consistent quality repairs, installers need a standard operating procedure for parts procurement. And when matrixing parts’ cost, they should consider the value proposition to include warranty terms, etc.

Instead of playing the “no warranty” card, the adviser should have used the complete value package of the business’s product line. This would include OE-quality or better, an extended warranty period and free labor if the part fails within the warranty period.

When the customer returned complaining about the different noise, I would have verified that it was different and offered to replace the motor under warranty. To answer the price question, I’d have informed the customer that I would research this with my vendors and report the findings. I would also have taken the opportunity to explain that dealers have several prices for the same part, depending on the risk associated with the sale, to cover warranties cost.

In the end, be thankful the customer chose to communicate with you. Take care of them, and everything else will take care of itself.

Terry Wynter
Terry Wynter Auto Service Center
Fort Myers, Fla.

In my opinion, the priority in this situation would be to assure the customer that his parts and labor are under warranty. The noise will be repaired at no charge to him if it was related to the work we performed.

At that point, I would reassure him that he made a good decision to buy the part from us, since he would not have a labor warranty if he had purchased the part elsewhere and had us do the installation.

I would apologize if we did not properly communicate the difference between OE- equivalent and OE-manufacturer parts. I would explain that we have both types available to us and make our parts recommendations on several factors, including cost, quality, warranty, age of vehicle, etc. OE-equivalent parts are produced to original manufacturer’s specifications or better.

The customer had concerns about our part price when compared with pricing he had seen online and with the dealer. I would explain to him that these prices are for the part only and do not include labor, warranty, our expertise in parts knowledge and shipping. As an auto service provider, our goal is to offer the total package of parts and labor, which provides the customer with the greatest value in auto repair.

Joe Jurosek
Kinney’s Automotive
Hurst, Texas

First, I’m going to assume that the customer was charged a fair price. If this were the case, I would accompany the customer to the vehicle so that he could demonstrate what he was concerned about. If the “different” sound turned out to be within reason, and if the part were functioning properly, I would apologize that, for whatever reason, there was a miscommunication about the OEM part. But I’d also explain that the repair was made as agreed.

As far as the charges go, the shop must make a profit, and it has to stand behind its parts and labor. However, in my opinion, it’s none of the customer’s business what the shop pays for parts. They are at liberty, though, to share that if they wish.

I also think it would be worth reminding the customer that we are in the service business not the bargain parts business.

What the shop owner did

This shop records all customer conversations and was able to play back the conversation to the customer proving that the adviser told him he was installing an “OE equivalent part made by Dorman.” The shop owner refused to disclose his parts markup and informed the customer that price matching has to be done before the repair and not after.

Nevertheless, the shop owner asked the customer what it would take to make him happy. The customer then asked for a $200 refund, which the shop owner gave him.

T.J.’s thoughts

Since there are many different quality parts available at different price levels, I think the service adviser should have given the customer at least two different buying choices. I believe this might have kept the customer from having “buyers remorse.” But because he didn’t give the customer those options, I think refunding the $200 was a wise business decision.

Although the customer agreed to the price, the consequences of too many negative online reviews can and will cost almost any business thousands of dollars in lost revenue.