It’s Not What Happens, It Is How You Handle It That Counts

Posted by on Sep 26, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I recently had an intermittent problem with my Ford Expedition. It would randomly pick days that it didn’t want to start. I come from a mechanical background and had been through a similar issue with the same vehicle. The last time it happened a year ago, it took a week and two very competent technicians to figure it out.

I had spoken to a franchisee that I was working with to find a shop that I could trust, as I was fairly new to Albuquerque. He recommended a shop that always looked busy to me, (this is generally a good sign) and I passed it almost every day, (very convenient). I had also been with the franchisee on a few sales calls there, so I knew the technicians there by name. I felt comfortable with the decision.

I took my vehicle to the shop and spoke to the owner who told me that he was booked but he would be able to get to it on Monday or Tuesday, (this was on a Thursday). I told him I was fine with that but my mother-in-law drove my daughter around in it so they might as well keep it as I didn’t want them to get stranded. I explained the previous issue that we had found in Phoenix to the owner. He listened to me attentively and it appeared he understood what I was saying. I again felt good about the decision and left the vehicle.

Monday had rolled around and passed with no call. My mother-in-law had asked if there was any news yet, as we were down to one vehicle. Having been in the automotive field for quite a few years and even owning my own shop at one time, I knew that time is generally an estimate. Tuesday had come and gone and I figured I would give them a call later in the day Wednesday.

3:00 pm. Wednesday I decided it was time to call. The owner answered the phone and I told him who I was and asked the status of my Ford. He had told me that he was out on Monday and he wasn’t sure what had been done to the vehicle. I felt a little twinge of frustration as they had the vehicle for four working days. I was also thinking to myself as I was put on hold, how the owner didn’t know the status of my vehicle. There must have been a small miscommunication. The owner came back to the phone and proceeded to tell me that they couldn’t find the problem with the car. As I said before, it was intermittent and I wasn’t surprised. I was however surprised that no one bothered to call me to let me know the vehicle wasn’t acting up and ask if there were any special occasions when it would happen. I suddenly wasn’t feeling good about the decision to bring the vehicle to this shop. I told him I understood the situation and that I would pick the vehicle up drive it until the light came on; we would then bring it back while the problem was occurring. He agreed and we hung up.

Twenty minutes later a lady I don’t know from the shop called and told me the vehicle wasn’t acting up and began to ask me the questions that should have been asked Monday or Tuesday. When does the vehicle do this? Does it do it hot or cold? These are called probing questions and as a technician they are an extremely important part of the diagnostic process. I am thinking to myself now that they were lying to me about looking at the vehicle and because of the lack of communication the lady called me by accident. I had explained to her that I had already talked to the owner and I was coming down shortly to pick up my vehicle. She was surprised at my statement and told me she thought that was a good idea and that there would be a diagnostic charge when I got there but, if I brought the vehicle back for repairs it would be credited. I thanked her for the information and I hung up the phone. I began counting from 10. Nope, it wasn’t working! I called to my daughter and my mother-in-law and told them in a stern voice we had to leave now to pick up the Expedition. My mother-in-law was excited to get it back, and I snapped that it wasn’t fixed. My daughter said something to me and I snapped at her also. She asked if I was okay, I told her no and that I was in a bad mood. It was a very quiet ride to the shop.

I got to the shop and as usual they were very busy. The manager, who was on the phone, acknowledged me right away and said he, would be with me in a minute. That was a plus and I felt a little better. He hung up the phone and came to the counter and immediately apologized about my vehicle. I felt much better now. He explained that he had only caught a small portion of the conversation that I had with the owner that previous Thursday and then he proceeded to tell me all of the things that they had done to the vehicle to reproduce the problem. We discussed the fact that I would take the vehicle and drive it until the light came on again, then we would bring the Expedition back and they could check it. He really blew my mind and gained my trust again. He told me that he also heard the conversation between the lady and me. Again he apologized and told me that there would be no charge for diagnostics. I was now in my happy place. And I will bring it back when it acts up.

What lessons did we learn from this story? What would you as a business owner have done differently? This was a busy shop and I am sure that they were reaching many financial goals, but there was an obvious communication problem going on there. It was a low hanging fruit. Maybe if they took the time to fix it they would far exceed their goals.

Another great lesson to learn from this story is the power of an apology. Never be so egotistical as to think you shouldn’t apologize for a bad encounter. You don’t have to say who is wrong or right. Apologize for the incident, empathize with their situation and let them know what you are going to do to make them feel better. That is exactly what the manager did with me and he kept a customer. If I had left there paying that bill for diagnostics, I would have been very upset. I would have told everyone that I know not to take their car to that shop. Would they have gone out of business….No. But they wouldn’t have gotten any more business from me.

I have to ask you now as business owners. What kind of experience is you customer getting? How do you handle upset customers? Do you guide them through their concerns by listening and apologizing, or do you let your ego trample over

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