Recognizing Expectations in Customer Service

Sept. 2, 2020
My retail background always affected my expectations of service—now I know even more, especially when it comes to my car.

I came on as associate editor for FenderBender last month. And, working out of the same office as those who put together its sister publication, Ratchet+Wrench, I’ve thought about my experiences with auto repairs, both for accidents and mechanical, putting them into new perspectives based on what I’ve learned over the past four weeks.

There’s really only one bad experience that comes to mind. It began one evening when I was driving my daughter home from daycare two summers ago, stopped in congestion, when another driver backed a good 10 feet into my non-moving car, resulting in a literal fender bender.

Though upset that the only reason I needed to get my car fixed was because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the collision repair experience that followed is a far more frustrating memory.

I chose an insurance-recommended shop (didn’t know at the time that I didn’t have to) that had a nationally recognized name. I worked retail in college and before, and I recognized the look I saw on at least three employees’ faces when I walked in the door: “I don’t feel like helping this guy.”

The experience only deteriorated further from there. I was shocked to learn that my car had been towed to a different shop in a different city for its actual repair—I only learned that was the case when the other shop called me. From disgruntled customer service reps to a shop text-messaging service that only worked three weeks after my work was completed, to seeing techs detailing a vehicle while smoking cigarettes when I picked up my car, the whole experience had me wondering how it could be that bad.

I have some insights, now, into the why of that situation, and, relaying that story to my editor, was pleased she confirmed what I’d already assumed: FenderBender is here to highlight the best, and the best practices, in the collision industry.

With the bad out of the way I have a less interesting but far better experience to relay. Two weeks back I found a nail in my tire. My car was still driveable so after work at the magazine I took it to a locally owned MSO with less than a dozen locations that my wife just loves, hoping for a quick patch. It was an easy in and the shop called about an hour later to inform me that my front axle was having some issues too. I opted to fix the tire and the axle, and had the car back that same evening. Now I love that repair shop too, and it’s walking distance from our home.

If there’s a take-away from all this it’s the importance of valuing every customer who walks through the door—and not just for the value of their potential future business. Lots of folks have worked in customer service, and know both how easy and sometimes challenging it can be to offer a good experience. It all takes work. And all it took for me to write off that body shop—it’s not even there anymore—was the knowledge I learned providing people good service selling clothes and shoes. Know that customers have expectations and some knowledge off of which to base them. Some might even be collision industry magazine editors, or at least editors to be.