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How to Take Extra Time for Customers

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Crystal Madden hasn’t always worked in the automotive industry.

Just a few short years ago, Madden made a career change that was rather drastic. After she was in a life-changing car accident that left her unable to perform the day-to-day tasks of a nurse, Madden went from studying medicine to working in the automotive industry.

Having been in an accident of that magnitude, Madden finds that it lends to her credibility as an estimator, since she has experienced what her customers are going through.

Growing up, her dad was into cars, and moving into the collision repair industry has helped them bond—although, it wasn’t easy to get into. As it is a male-dominated industry, Madden says it was more difficult for her to be taken seriously. It was because of this that she decided to write a manual for women, titled “The Accidental Estimator,” detailing how to break into the field. This includes tips and tricks for women who want to work in the automotive industry.

Since working as an estimator, Madden has been around luxury cars. Starting at a Mercedes-Benz dealership, she now works at a Jaguar dealership and collision repair center. The shops that Madden works for, Jaguar Fort Lauderdale and Margate Collision Center, are both located in southeastern Florida. Even though Madden has only been in the industry for a short time, she has loved every moment of it.

“If you love what you’re doing, the day goes by really fast,” she says.

However, she doesn’t base her day on the clock. Staying late and taking phone calls outside of operating hours are a normal part of her schedule.

“I like to treat people the way I want to be treated, and I want someone to have fun with me,” she says. “I want someone to laugh around me … and I try to project that.”

As told to Alayna Baggenstoss

When I clock in at the office in the morning, I get right to work. I’m checking emails we got after hours, getting back to clients, and getting into quote requests. I do roughly five to seven each day, which is a lot considering how much I do around the office. I’m always doing something, whether that be interacting with the technicians and clients, or joking around with the other staff; I try to bring good vibes to the office.

I make it a point to really keep going throughout the day. I keep organized by making lists of everything, keeping track of what I need to do and prioritizing the day. I have a set amount of tasks for each day, but things might be put on hold. You really have to stay open to the fact that things might get interrupted and you might have to go do something else.

As soon as I get to work, I’m always interacting with the customers in some way. When a customer comes in for an estimate, chances are that they’re pretty frustrated. Most people just want someone to listen to them—someone that’s going to let them vent their frustrations. A lot of times, I’m that person. I have to remind myself that they’re only human, and they’re going to be frustrated, and that’s OK. I try to joke with them a lot. It really helps them out when I catch them off guard with a little sarcasm or funny remark. But it always has to be authentic; you can’t force humor.

There was a time that this man was very upset at the desk so I went to see what the problem was. He was talking about the problem he was going through and how he needed us to fix it. It isn’t my job to handle this kind of situation as an estimator, but, as a person, it was. I got to talking to him and got him to explain to me what was going on. After he relaxed a bit more, I made a witty comment and it made the whole situation that much better. By the end of the conversation, he was laughing and joking with me. Now, every time he comes in, he makes it a point to say hello and ask how I’m doing.

I spend my day trying to be as efficient as possible. For me, this means that I’m always doing something. I take lunch at my desk most days so I can keep working on things and be productive.

One way that I stay efficient is by working to always learn something. I read a lot of articles and talk to the technicians a lot about what it is that they’re doing. I also do a lot of work on my manual, doing the research and writing when I have the time. We really try to be as available for our customers as possible. For me, this means that I give my phone number to them so that I can answer questions after hours and on weekends. These issues happen all the time, not just during a 9–5 time period. I want them to feel like they can reach out to us whenever they need to.

This attitude is just a part of what sets us apart. There is a certain level of professionalism in the office that’s expected of us. Everyone always looks put together and friendly. We’ve received a high level of recognition because of how we operate. We handle each problem so thoroughly. I’ll answer customers’ questions before they even know that they had any. We’ve gotten several J.D. Power and Associates Awards and Retailer Recognition. We really are No. 1 in our field.

This manual is all about women getting into the automotive industry, and how to do that. I decided to start writing this because women can do anything. We’re just as strong, just as efficient, and just as capable as anyone else in the industry. It’s so important for women to be in this industry because it sets the standard for future generations. It really raises the bar for other women that want to be mechanics and plumbers and electricians. There’s no reason that a person can’t be in an industry because of their gender. I plan to have it finished soon.

At the end of the day, I understand that the customer’s time isn’t always conducive to mine. If a customer comes in close to closing time, I’m not going to tell them to come back tomorrow. I’m going to sit down and work out their issue because that’s my job. I pride myself on being thorough, and, sometimes, that means taking that extra time to be there for the customer. ​

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