Driving in the customers' shoes improves service

Jan. 1, 2020
What may be considered a low priority vehicle to most of us is, to its owner, the most important one on the road.

Every day, we go to work and perform our daily routines, living in our own little world. The client comes in, we determine what his or her needs are, service the vehicle and call when it's done. They pick up the vehicle, pay the bill and, after a little chitchat, go on with their lives. Our focus usually is on the task at hand: getting the vehicles in, getting them fixed and starting on the next one. This is happening every day at my shop and at hundreds of shops throughout the country.

Our clients probably don't give a second thought to the vehicle, the service it received or even their service experience until the vehicle needs serviced again or something goes wrong. Likewise, we usually don't think about the client until they return or something doesn't go right.

Over the New Year's weekend, a longtime client and friend was tragically killed by an impaired driver. I attended the funeral the Saturday after the accident; the car in the funeral procession behind the hearse belonged to my late client's wife. We had repaired that vehicle for an intermittent cranks no start three weeks prior and had to replace a component that recognizes the ignition key signal for the anti-theft system. Seeing that reminded me how important our job is and how much our clients rely on our service expertise. I can't even imagine what additional strain would have been put on the family if that car decided not to start during this very stressful period.

Vehicles such as police cars, ambulances and school buses are serviced every day by technicians; the importance of these vehicles in regards to preserving public safety is obvious. It is the everyday driver whose importance gets overlooked. The daily workhorse is the vehicle that in most cases may be considered a low priority vehicle to most of us in the service industry. What we fail to remember is that to the vehicle's owner, it is the most important vehicle on the road.

There is an old saying that goes, "in order to know a person, walk a mile in their shoes." In this case, try to understand what the importance of the vehicle you are servicing is to the customer. That vehicle is used for transportation to work or school, as a delivery vehicle, to take a loved one to the doctor, to deliver meals to the elderly or to take medicine to a sick friend, to deliver pizza or newspapers...the list is endless. The last thing a customer wants is an unreliable vehicle. It is up to us to educate the consumer about why it takes certain procedures and parts to do the job right and to keep their vehicle in reliable working order.

We as an industry must realize that when we are servicing a vehicle, we must do a thorough job using quality parts. If not, the results could be more than an inconvenience; it could be a matter of safety.

Chuck Hartogh is vice president and co-founder of C&M Auto Service Inc. of Glenview, Ill., and Vernon Hills, Ill., and is an ASE-Certified Master, L1 Technician (ASA).