It's Doing the Same Thing
What does the same thing really mean? When a customer comes up to the service counter and says, "It's doing the same thing", I have to ask myself… "How do they know?" Is it really doing exactly the same thing? Funny, how it turns out (99.9% of the time), it's NOT doing the same thing.
I expect to hear stuff like this from customers now and then, but when my wife starts in on me… Ok, what's the deal? We were about to head on our vacation when the bulb warning light on the dash came on telling her one of the rear lights was out.
It was the side marker light on the driver's side of the car. Easily changed and taken care of, and with all the commotion and last minute preparations, the warning light problem became a distant memory.
Several states and hundreds of miles later the light came back on.
"It's doing the same thing," she tells me.
Now I understand there is always the possibility that it really is doing the same thing, but really my dear … you're married to the mechanic. Can we at least re-think how to inform me about such things? Yes, the light on the dash is "doing the same thing", but let's try rephrasing it to: "The warning light is back on, dear." At least that way I won't feel like I'm back at the shop trying to decipher the latest "doing the same thing" dilemma … hey, I'm on vacation for heaven's sake!
This time around it was the passenger side marker light that was out. Not to be outwitted by a little warning light, I pulled over at the next stop and added a quick little tap on the lens, which got it working again. (That should do till I get home again.)
This got me wondering how many times I've heard the phrase, "Doing the same thing". Over the years I've seen this escalate into complete madness at the front counter. As in my wife's case, the dash warning light on the car didn't state which bulb "exactly" was out, but only which section of the car. The same thing applies to a lot of other systems, however the customer who has laid down a chunk of their hard earned cash doesn't always see it that way.
A few weeks ago I had a 1995 Saturn in the shop that had been all over town, as well as to every relative who owns a tool box. No one seemed able to get the air conditioning to cool. Part after part was changed, but still no cold air. When I finally had a crack at it I was surprised at what I found. The connector for the A/C compressor was exactly the same style and type as the low coolant level sensor in the over-flow bottle. Somebody had switched them up. Once I found the problem the cure was simple… just reverse the connectors and "Ta-Da" cold air. All the functions were working, cooling fan, line pressure, vent temperature, everything was great. Even the "low coolant" light was operating correctly (they never mentioned that part)
However, a few weeks later they called me back and tell me it's … well, you guessed it… "Doing the same thing". Now, I'm no dummy, I know what they meant, it's not cold again. I informed them it was probably leaking refrigerant or something like that. They weren't buying that, they kept insisting that it's doing exactly the same thing as before. Even after reading the description of the repair on the invoice, and telling me they totally understood it… they still insisted it was… "Doing the same thing" … just sounded impossible.
Or let's say you've changed the blower motor for a customer and a week or so later they come back because the air conditioning isn't cold. I'll ask, "When did you notice the air wasn't cold?"
"Right after you changed the blower motor."
Ok, the next time I ask a question like that, and get a response to match, I'm going to have a guy with a drum set sitting in the background waiting for the customer to deliver the inevitable punch line. Then at that perfect comedic moment he could bang out the classic drum roll/cymbal crash. Priceless moment for sure.
It never fails, somewhere in the conversation the customer will say, "You worked on it last." Or, "You put it on the machine that tells you everything about the car. That's what I paid for." I like the ones who actually say out loud, as if I'm not standing in front of them, "Obviously they don't know what they're doing here." Followed closely by, "I should have listened to my friend, and taken it to that other shop."
What? Was I NOT supposed to hear all of it, or are they merely talking to themselves out loud, and I'm standing too close.
The way I see it, the consumer brought their car into a repair shop for a professional evaluation of the problem. But, as soon as the work is done, and some other problem creeps up the "all-knowing" consumer becomes the expert, and not the professional they originally brought it too.
If you study the invoice it says a lot more than what was repaired. It also states how much it cost them and honestly, that's really what has become the issue. There's one thing for sure, getting the customer to understand the complexities of a system. The fact that there are other things that can go wrong can be a huge mountain to climb. With some diplomacy and tact you can get through these situations. Try smiling and be courteous… it works wonders.
One thing for sure: the last thing you want to do is send the customer out the door without the problem resolved. There's no doubt if you don't get the car repaired, they'll leave the shop working on a massive headache over their car, and you'll probably go home … … … … "Doing the same thing" too.
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