Six Steps to Win ‘Em Back

Dec. 17, 2021

A surefire strategy to hold on to comeback customers.

Five years ago, Bill Hill, owner of Mighty Auto Pro in Medina, Ohio, was out of town at a conference when an upset customer called the shop while broken down on the side of the road. The customer was headed out of town on a vacation with her kids when her front wheel came off after having work done on her vehicle a few days prior halfway into her journey. 

Today, that same woman is a loyal customer that comes in three to four times per year. 

How did this go from a disaster to a win without the owner of the shop even being present? Exceptional customer service and the autonomy of the staff to make it right. Here’s what happened: 

As soon as the call came in, the service advisor immediately called a tow truck company and rented her an SUV. The tow truck took the SUV to her and helped her unload all of her camping gear and helped get her children situated before towing her vehicle back to the shop to work on it while she set off to enjoy her vacation. Hill’s staff took care of everything while he was away. 

When Hill got back, he fully expected the customer to be upset when she came in to pick up her vehicle for the second time. Instead, she came in, started to cry and said “I have never seen that type of customer service.” 

Hill has set his staff up for success when it comes to comeback customers. Even without him being present the entire staff knows how to deal with an upset customer. Here are six steps to help your staff win a comeback customer back. 

Step 1: Prepare your entire staff. 

Hill does training two to three times per year with his staff during which they go over scenarios and discuss how to deal with upset customers. Doing this helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the best way to deal with customers so they’re not caught off guard when one comes in. 

Step 2: Shut up and listen.

When a customer comes in, they expect a fight, Rick White, president and coach at 180Biz, says. Catch that customer off guard and give him or her the room to be upset rather than jumping on the defense, he says. Hill agrees and says the rule of thumb at his shop is to listen and say, “I’m sorry.” Both Hill and White emphasize the importance of letting the customer vent to get it out of his or her system. Once they’ve calmed down and feel heard, then you can start to address the issue. 

Step 3: Say “I’m sorry.” 

When comeback customers come into the shop, they’re not coming to you from a logical perspective, they’re coming in emotionally, White explains. Because of this, answering them logically will not do you any favors. That’s like mixing oil and water, White says. So, if a customer comes in screaming and you start throwing out explanations for why the situation happened, the customer won’t hear you. Instead, just listen and apologize. Hill says that he and his staff are always apologizing because the main goal is a happy customer. So, whether or not the problem the customer has is actually the fault of the shop, you still need to be empathetic to the fact that they are upset. 

Step 4: Make them feel heard. 

Hill has a sheet (attached for online purposes or as a sidebar) that his staff uses when a customer comes back with a vehicle issue. Once the customer has calmed down, the staff will ask that customer to describe what happened in his or her own words while taking notes. His staff knows to repeat back what the customer has said to make sure it is correct and also make sure that the customer knows that he or she is being taken seriously. White agrees that taking notes and repeating back the issue is of the utmost importance when winning that customer back.  

Step 5: Fix it. 

Both White and Hill say to give staff autonomy to do what is needed to make it right rather than getting approval from the owner. White explains that if you can deal with the issue on the first call, the chances of them coming back to you are exponentially higher than if you need to call them back after consulting with someone. Hill says he gives his staff Carte Blanche to do what they believe is best for the customer. If he believes it was too much or not the right approach, he discusses it with the staff member that made the call afterward. When White was a shop owner, he said each staff member was cleared to spend $250 without consulting him to make the issue right. 

It’s important to go the extra mile for that customer to show how sorry you are. White said he always tried to throw an extra service in, such as a free oil change or a detail. Hill says he and his staff offer to go above and beyond to make it right, and, often, the customer will decline it. For example, he often offers to go pick the customer up and many times, they come in on their own. Just hearing that the shop is willing to take extra measures is enough for most customers. 

Step Six: Learn from the mistake.

The final step takes place once the customer has left. This step is to learn from what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Both White and Hill have a process in place when customers come back with an issue. Hill’s form is attached and White would get the original ticket, the customer complaint form and both shop owners would sit down with those involved in the repair process to identify where the issue was. The most important thing is to not get upset with the individual that made a mistake and rather turn it into a teaching moment. By discussing it thoroughly, you’ll ensure that the mistake doesn’t happen again. 

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