WHAT WOULD YOU DO: After a technician willfully damages a vehicle…

After a technician willfully damages a vehicle’s fender shrouds, the customer demands cash in the amount of the factory list price… What would you do?

A customer comes in with a 2003 Chevy Suburban for some routine service work and rear shocks. The following Monday, the customer calls to complain about holes being cut into the plastic inner fender shrouds to gain access to the rear shocks. The service adviser explained to the customer that he would have to discuss this issue with the shop manager on Tuesday.

The manager spoke with the technician, who confessed that he had, in fact, cut the inner fender shrouds to save time. The manager offered to replace the shrouds free of charge, but the customer was moving out of state the next day. The customer requested $155.97 for each shroud, which is the factory list price.

What would you do?

Tom Palermo
Preferred Automotive Specialists
Jenkintown, Pa.

Tom Palermo
Preferred Automotive Specialists
Jenkintown, Pa.

This was one of the worst-handled customer service complaints, from beginning to end. After reading the scenario, I was left shaking my head and asking, “Why?”
Once the owner found out that the technician had cut the plastic shields, he immediately should have paid the customer for the shields. This is not a difficult situation to understand. The technician took an ill-advised shortcut and got caught. Because the technician works for the shop, the shop is on the hook. The customer came to the shop expecting the job to be performed in a professional manner. This did not happen.

The owner was being shortsighted. There is a time to stand your ground and not relent when someone is trying to take advantage of a situation. This was not that time. The fact that the customer planned to move was inconsequential in regard to whether the owner should pay. In fact, it made the situation worse, from the customer’s perspective, because it added stress to an already stressful situation. Doing the right thing and being professional overrides any details in this scenario.

Of course, the customer is going to leave a bad review. It’s the only way he feels as if he’s being heard. But there was a way to make this a positive experience and even gain ground – reimburse the customer, apologize and act like a professional. Perhaps the customer would have left a positive review about how the shop stood up and did the right thing.

Sherri Stock
inMotion Auto Care
Lincoln, Neb.

Sherri Stock
inMotion Auto Care
Lincoln, Neb.

For me, the answer is quite simple: Pay the customer what it takes to restore his vehicle to the condition it was before we worked on it, and offer a sincere apology. The customer shouldn’t be penalized for doing business with us.

In this case, the technician made the choice to damage the vehicle to save himself time, with no consideration for the customer’s property. My issue begins at this point. I understand that shortcuts can be taken when repairing vehicles. But only skilled technicians, who, through years of experience, have figured out a more efficient way to perform a repair should take them. Shortcuts that are destructive to vehicles or equipment are done either by Inexperienced technicians who need training Technicians who are stretched too thin and should be scheduled less work Lazy, greedy technicians who need to look for another job I would have a talk with my technician. ASAP!

Craig O’Neill, AAM
O’Neill’s Transmission Service
Grand Rapids, Mich.

There is no excuse to modify a client’s vehicle without their complete understanding and acceptance of any risks.

Craig O’Neill, AAM
O’Neill’s Transmission Service
Grand Rapids, Mich.

If proper repair procedures are complicated due to rust or deterioration, the problem, and the possible solutions, need to be communicated to the client. Clients must know what it takes to do the job right and be given the opportunity to elect to have it done. The client in this case may have been willing to buy, but now they’re making the shop pay.

It should come as no surprise that the unauthorized modification to the client’s vehicle caused an upset. While the shop did attempt to do the right thing by offering to replace the shrouds at no charge, the client’s reason for being unable to accept that resolution was approached poorly by the shop.

The owner took that new information as an opportunity for renegotiation with the shop’s bottom line as a variable of importance equal to the customer’s satisfaction. It isn’t surprising that the technician performed a repair with similar ethics in mind, as it appears the shop’s culture allows placing its own interests above those of their clients.

Let’s remember the true goal, now that the damage is done. It’s to restore the vehicle’s integrity and the client’s goodwill. Were this to occur in my shop, it would have been a violation of policy that would have to be addressed internally.

As for the client, who is unable or unwilling to have corrective action performed, I would work with them to identify a repair facility of their choice and agree to pay the full cost of replacing the shrouds (according to list price and book labor time).

For the inconvenience, I would offer a gift card to a restaurant of their choice, with value proportioned to the size of their family. The apology would be emphatic, and the client would be informed that such modifications are not a practice we condone in our business, and we earnestly want to follow through restoring their vehicle’s integrity.

This case study should prompt readers to have a discussion at their next crew meeting. Ask your techs … what would they do?

What the shop manager did

The manager informed the customer that he would have to call the shop owner to approve a check and that he’d have to call him back in an hour with the owner’s response. The owner denied paying retail price for the OEM parts and offered $100. The shop manager offered the customer $100.

The customer said he would accept the $100 but would also write a bad Google review. The manager then said he wouldn’t give the customer the $100. The customer replied that he really wasn’t going to write a review, picked up the check, cashed it and then wrote a 550-word nasty review.

T.J.’s thoughts

The technician should never have cut the inner fender shrouds without approval from the customer. This is not a case of an honest mistake; the technician took a shortcut at the customer’s expense.

Regarding the service adviser, there is no excuse for your staff not being empowered to take care of your customers. I believe that your service advisers should be given a budget to make your customers happy. Beyond that budget, the service adviser should have immediate access to a manager or owner to get approval.

Since this issue involved the integrity of the company, I believe that the owner, not the manager, should have personally apologized to the customer and written a check for the requested amount. In addition, the technician needs to be written up.

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