Running a Shop Shop Customers Customer Relationship Management

Know When to Let a Customer Go

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Audra Fordin

“The customer is always right.” That’s a nice thing to say, but we know it’s not really the case.

Retailers take this mantra too far. Most stores let you return any item for any reason.

No receipt? No problem!

I understand their reasoning. Some customers are so difficult that nothing will make them happy. People have been conditioned to believe they can get a refund as soon as they file a complaint (whether it’s justified or not). This mentality creates a challenge for auto shops. But when a problem reaches a certain point, sometimes it’s best to let them go rather than trying to control the situation.

For example, a driver rolled into my shop with his car dripping oil. We found a primary leak in the valve cover gasket and secondary leaks from the cam, crank, and oil pan gasket. There were signs of internal engine damage.

THINKSTOCKThe car was poorly maintained. It really needed the engine replaced. The driver insisted on repairing only the leaks, despite receiving this advice. Maybe the vehicle had sentimental value? That’s my best guess.

On his invoice, we made a note: “Please keep an eye on your motor oil. We sealed all the leaks, but your engine is still burning oil. Failing to follow this instruction could cause you to break down.”

He didn’t listen. Six weeks later, I got a phone call.

“My engine started making a clanking noise,” he said. “I went to another shop and my oil was empty!” This is exactly what I warned him about. The other shop topped off his oil. The clanking didn’t cease. The engine was beyond repair. He blamed me.

“If you don’t give me a refund, I’ll write a bad review online.” So much for personal responsibility.

Here’s an analogy. You go to the doctor, because you feel sick. She says you have an infection. “Follow this treatment for a month and you’ll feel better.” For some reason, you ignore her advice. The infection progresses and becomes incurable. Whose fault is that? Another driver had a similar problem. She came in for an engine replacement. A few days later, she was late for work, because her car wouldn’t start. She called in a panic. “I paid thousands for this repair … and it wasn’t done right!” A tow truck dropped off her car. It turns out her battery died because she forgot to turn off the interior light. She was apologetic and relieved (so was I).

Do you see the difference? The first customer refused to hold himself accountable for his choices. The second customer apologized when she realized the error of her thinking. You will encounter both kinds of customers at your shop. Some drivers will trust your expertise and professionalism. Others will ignore your advice and blame you when something bad happens. That’s totally fine.

You should always put your best foot forward, do your best to educate customers, hear them out, and mitigate conflict, but you can’t become engrossed in every complaint and you need to be prepared to let some customers go, for your own sanity and the betterment of your business.

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