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Had to disaqualify/turn away a customer, Thoughts?


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I've had a rough morning so far so maybe that may have factored into how I handled this customer...

 

 

Customer calls in asks us to bring the car it for an "estimate" for a steering issue. He told me it is not fluid level and it is not the pump. I explained to the customer that we do work by appointment as we are swamped most of the time and our next appointment would be Friday or next week. Secondly we do not give out free estimates. We diagnose and inspect vehicles and depending on the time and operation we have to put into them there would be a fee attached to that. Over the phone it sounded like both stipulations (appointment and no free estimates) kind of turned him off. His response was "I'll give you a call back if I don't find somewhere else to fix my problem I need to get this done soon." The tone and the explanation as to why he didn't want to set up an appointment pointed towards he was a bit put off that we could not accommodate him ASAP and that we do have a fee for diag.

 

I suppose I could have explained we do give free estimates however if the vehicle needs diagnostic work or tests to discover what the true problem is then we charge a fee. I could have also a been a bit nicer, I was a little shorter than I am normally. Something about this guy however made me think he was going to be somewhat of a problem (negotiate on prices, want to bring his own parts, annoying about completing repairs etc). The fact is is that we are very busy (thankfully) and if I take on more than I can handle then quality and completion times on all jobs will suffer. I also however remember the days of never wanting to turn away business and bending over backwards to do whatever my customers wanted because I was worried about not having the business. I do believe it is important for us as shop owners/manager to intake as much of our ideal target customer and to remove the ones that don't fit our target.

 

Do you guys think I should have tried harder to convert that caller or took a softer approach?

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It's hard to second guess you without being in your shoes at the time he called. I have found that when I disregard that "gut feeling" on a customer I often regret it. You did what you felt was the right thing to do at the time, put it behind you and move on.

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I feel the same way whenever I can't help someone. We are usually booked up solid for a few days so real quick isn't happening. I explain that we are booked but if they drop the car off we might get to it sooner if someone cancels or a current job gets done ahead of schedule. This lets the customer know I do want their business and I care. They also learn the value of their appointment and our commitment to it, would they want me to bypass their car for someone else's emergency? Occasionally someone will take me up on it, drop off the car on standby, and then start calling me an hour later, I suggest another shop for them. Done-yet and Since-Ya are bad customers.

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We have all been there. When we are busy, we sometime are focused on putting out all the fires in the bays. I think that the because you took the time to post what happens tells us that you feel you could have done things differently. So, learn from it, and move on.

 

Life is a journey, not a destination. Each step is another opportunity to see new things and learn.

 

 

Thanks for the reply Joe. I definitely feel like I could have done things a little differently however unless we are completely free of appointments, my standard procedure is to book someone for an appointment. Of course we rush emergencies into the shop as soon as a free slot opens however this seemed to be a customer that wanted it done right away without any exceptions and didn't want to pay a diag fee. Even if I had the time for such a customer, do you think it would be wise to spend time trying to educate them on how we do business or should be they just be thrown back into the ocean.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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