What Would You Do?

Every shop owner runs into ‘situations.’ How they handle them is important … do you agree with these fellow ASA members?


This scenario comes from a collision shop that we’ve been doing business with for more than 25 years. We’ve never had a complaint from any of the many customers we’ve sent them.

A few years ago, a customer came in to the shop with a gold-colored, 4-year-old Honda Accord. The Accord had hood and fender damage. The customer was insistent that he was quite “picky” and if the shop couldn’t do a really good job, he would take it elsewhere. The shop service adviser assured him they could repair it properly, so the customer left the car.

When the customer came back to pick up the Accord, he got within two inches of the vehicle and inspected the paint job at every angle possible. Seeing a slight blemish, the customer requested it be fixed. The shop agreed. When the customer came back a few days later, he was still not satisfied. The shop was now convinced that it would be impossible to make this customer happy.

What would you do?

What the shop did:
A shop staff member told the customer to get an estimate from another shop, and they would pay to have it fixed. The customer returned with an estimate for a new hood and paintwork that was much more costly than the insurance company had paid originally for the repairs. The shop paid it.

Roy Schnepper

Roy Schnepper

• Roy Schnepper, president, Butler’s Collision, Roseville, Mich., and ASA chairman-elect – “Tough question to answer without seeing the spot the customer was complaining about. My first thought is that the customer is always right and to try again to resolve the complaint. But what if they’re not willing to do that? Another solution, especially if it was an insurance claim, is to ask if we could have the insurance company inspect the car as a way of finding a solution. By doing this, the customer has confidence in knowing that their insurance company will look out for their best interest. The bottom line is to have a satisfied customer, and sometimes we have to go the extra mile to make that happen.”

Bob Schubert

Bob Schubert

• Bob Schubert, owner, Impact Auto Body, Mesa, Ariz.: – “I think every collision repairer has run into this situation at one time or another, and, once it happens, you learn to reset the customer’s expectations to become more realistic. You also learn to let some cars go down the road to become another shop owner’s headache.

“But by agreeing to the customer’s definition of ‘quite picky,’ you’ve opened the door to any little thing the customer can find that he’s not happy with, however minor.

“The only hope of getting out of this situation without having a very dissatisfied customer is to sit down with them and explain that while there was no intent to mislead him before repairs were completed, you never meant to suggest that the vehicle would be flawless when inspected from two inches away. Even brand-new cars won’t pass that type of test.

“I would apologize for the misunderstanding and see if we could agree on a third party to inspect the repairs at the shop’s expense and confirm that the work performed was of excellent quality. If that solution wasn’t satisfactory, I would ask the vehicle owner what he or she felt was fair while making it clear that we were unwilling to continually redo what we know is already a great repair. Many people, in this situation, will sense that you are being sincere and back down — on some level they probably know they are being unreasonable. And the ones who won’t change their position are few and far between. Those customers actually will be doing us a favor by finding a different repair shop next time they’re in an accident.”

Eric Mckenzie

Eric Mckenzie

• Eric McKenzie, director of Body Shop Operations, Park Place Dealerships, Dallas: – “We run into scenarios like this fairly frequently. Usually when we refinish an area where the client noticed something minor that we didn’t, they are then satisfied with the outcome. We’ve had a few extreme cases where it seems as though there might be no way to please them because they’re ‘finding’ things that we can’t even detect. What helps in this situation is to show them how our refinish process works, let them see it in action (in the shop), and sometimes we’ll even have technical personnel from our paint company describe the process and assure the client that we’ve done everything exactly according to their manufacturer recommendations. And assure them that the finished product they are receiving from us is of the highest quality available.”

• What T.J. Reilly, AAM, would have done: This is a perfect example of “going to school.” The expensive mistakes we make are often just the cost of learning important lessons. When the customer originally said he was “quite picky,” the shop should have defined what the customer meant by it.

This collision shop does commercially acceptable repairs. It doesn’t do Concours d’Elegance (a competition among car owners on the appearance of their vehicles) paint and bodywork. It obviously wasn’t prepared to have a customer with a 4-year-old Honda Accord expecting a flawless repair.

I’m not sure I would have paid the customer until I saw that the car was actually repaired flawlessly. I suspect the customer might have pocketed the money and not had the car fixed.

Would you like to participate in an upcoming “What Would You Do?” feature by sharing your dilemma or saying how you would handle the problem? If so, just email your name, your shop name and its location to Leona Dalavai Scott, editor of AutoInc., at leonad@asashop.org.