Running a Shop Shop Customers Customer Relationship Management

Think Like a Customer

Order Reprints

It’s ok to vent about it from time to time: Customers can sometimes be irritating. They don’t understand the intricacies of the repair process and all of the hard work your shop puts into making their vehicles better than new. They are quick to notice what’s wrong rather than what’s been repaired to perfection, they are often suspicious, and they may not shower you with praise, regardless of how much it might be deserved. 

But from my experience, all of those issues can be easily dealt with using a little patience, common courtesy, jargon-free explanations and a good-faith attempt to show you are at least interested, if not honored, to receive someone’s business. Those things seem basic, but shop employees can sometimes lose sight of them during the daily grind of running a business. In my very first job as a grocery store bag boy, my boss reminded me to think like the customer—to put myself in their shoes and behave accordingly. 

We’ve all heard this before. It’s not very profound, but how many shops have employees that do it?

I’m going to put on my customer hat for you now, with a real story of my own. I have luckily only required the use of a collision shop once in my life, and the experience was very satisfactory. However, I’m having a heck of a time finding a good service center, and the lessons gleaned from the most recent shop I dealt with apply to collision as well.

I have had my vehicle serviced twice recently at a shop with great online reviews and a solid reputation from what I have heard.

The shop looks great inside and out. The lobby is modern and comfortable, the children’s area is organized and clean, and I can actually let my son play with the toys without feeling I need to give him a bath afterward.

My first service was a simple oil change and all went well except I didn’t get a call to notify me when the job was done. I had to call the shop, only to find out that the car had been done for hours. A simple oversight; no big deal, I thought.

So, I decided to try the shop again when a warning light came on. I wasn’t sure if it was a problem, but I was to head out on a road trip soon, so I wanted to have it checked out. I dropped the car off in the evening just before they closed, to have the shop look at it the following day. They were going to give it a look and let me know what they found.

Well, time again passed and when 4 p.m. rolled around, I was too irritated to wait any longer. I called, was told they hadn’t identified the problem, but had the car apart and probably needed another day. I asked for an update before close. They said they’d call, but again never did. So I called again, and received the answering machine.

The next day, the shop finally called with news that the car was fixed. They charged me an hour’s labor and lubricated my squeaking front brakes for free. A great outcome, but the shop seemed oblivious to its lack of customer management.

The Lesson: Quality repairs, a nice facility, affordable service­—none of it means a thing without taking a moment to think like the customer, communicate what they want and need to hear to have an exceptional experience.

Jake Weyer, Editor

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