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Winter is a rough, long season for cars in Minnesota. Freezing temperatures, loads of  road salt, streets pocked with holes from ice, snow and uneven plowing—it can be a lucrative time to be in the auto service business, if you don’t mind the slop, rust and other issues the climate produces for techs. I’ve heard that shops in warmer parts of the country don’t even own a torch—a laughable impossibility up here. 

One of the common problems that sneaks up on drivers in the winter is squeaky belts. Loose or worn belts that behave properly in the spring and summer months will suddenly make themselves well known. My Toyota Corolla fell victim to this recently, and I asked to have the belts checked and tightened at a local shop that I was at for an oil change. 

Upon pickup, I was told the belts looked fine, so nothing was done. This was a little dumbfounding to me as the squeak was real (and irritating) but I decided I’d just do it myself at home as time was tight and I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. Well, time passed and other priorities took the place of the belt adjustment, so I decided to take the car to another shop I had never been to.

This is when I encountered some small customer service strategies that made a big difference in my experience. Here are the stupid-simple highlights that will bring my wife and I back to that shop in the future:

  • On the phone, while setting up the appointment, the shop asked for my name and used it throughout the conversation. There’s something comforting about that. 
  • I was clearly the focus of the conversation. It was a busy day at the shop, but I was the star from the moment I got someone on the phone. My questions were answered, every courtesy was provided, I wasn’t rushed. 
  • I was asked if I needed a ride home. I’ve been to half a dozen shops in my area in the last eight years and I had never once been asked this. It meant my wife and young boys didn’t have to drive separately to the shop and take me home. A huge plus for everyone! 
  • A tech gave me the ride home in my Toyota, so he could hear exactly what I was talking about. 
  • The problem was fixed and that fix was confirmed when the tech picked me up and drove me back to the shop in my car, explaining everything they did and other maintenance I may want to consider in the future. 

Overall, the shop just seemed to genuinely care about earning my business. That wins me, my family and maybe others down the road. It’s a simple concept, but how many shops execute it effectively? 


Jake Weyer
jweyer@fenderbender.com

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