I had an experience the other day in a business outside of collision repair that can teach us a few lessons about customer service in our auto body shops.
In less than a month, I’ll be getting married, and my bridesmaid dresses arrived the other day. Yay! Psyche! Not yay! My experience was the ANTITHESIS of yay!
Out of seven dresses ordered, the bridal shop got five wrong. And not just a little bit wrong but really, really wrong. (Ex: Instead of a size 8, they ordered my maid of honor an 18, and a size a teenager would wear for a five-year-old.) I was furious. I was nervous. I was having a meltdown! What was I going to do with only one month left? How would I get new dresses in time? What were my options?
I’m no bridal expert, so I had no idea how this would turn out. Was I doomed? The bridal store said not to worry, and they would get back to me, although they were unsure of what they could do on such a short timetable. When they did get back to me, they said they couldn’t get new dresses in on time and would do their best to have the tailor work some kind of magic. If they couldn’t get them to look exactly the way they should look, they would at least be similar to the other dresses.
Now, as you read this, this may seem like no big deal. It might seem to you that this business was simply doing their job by attempting to fix their mistake, so the case should be closed. Hush…NO.
Here are the problems if you haven’t already identified them. Like I said, I’m the consumer with zero knowledge in this field. The professional I was looking to for help was giving me a vague answer that was not aligned with my goal or expectation. I was looking to them to provide expertise along with confidence, options and – mainly – guidance! I didn’t feel confident in their abilities, so I started doing my own homework, which created more anxiety in me because a) I was totally alone trying to figure this big world of bridesmaid gowns out by myself, and b) I might get stuck having to settle for an outcome that I did not want – at a hefty price tag!
The bridal shop also shared with me how much money they would have to spend to get the dresses correct – as if I should have been appreciative of them having to spend a lot of money fixing their own mistake. It was as if they were doing me a favor! Oh gee, thanks a bunch! They offered me a discount when I went to pay (which I never asked for), and they brought that up to me as if this pardoned their massive fail. Did she feel like I owed her something? Did she feel like the shop shouldn’t have done their job correctly the first time because I had received a discount of some kind? I was seeing RED!
Amid my angst and anger, I quickly realized that if they would have let me know that they sympathized with my stress and worry and felt terrible for making errors on their end, I would have felt better about whatever they were trying to do to remedy the situation.
A simple, authentic apology and taking ownership of a mistake is by far the most important component in connecting with your customers and allowing the relationship to survive. If the bridal shop had taken that route and then offered me options with outcomes that made sense, the relationship would not have been completely severed. I would not have felt “wronged” and wanting to shout to scream from a mountaintop to avoid this place at all costs.
So, when your shop screws up, which we all do, do you and your employees take responsibility or act as if you’re doing your customer a favor by rectifying it? I’ve seen writers sigh when someone points out a mistake at delivery as if the writer is put out that the customer won’t just take their vehicle and leave. It’s mind-boggling!
Are you genuinely sorry for the inconvenience and added stress you’ve put your customer through? (And I’m not talking about the people who are looking for mistakes and making things up to be upset about. You just had a customer’s face pop into your mind when you read that. Yep – that person. Not talking about them.) Unlike bridal shops, people aren’t coming to see us because of some blessed day. Getting their car fixed is NOT a fun event that they’re looking forward to. Whatever led them to your door is already stressful, and they’re emotionally affected to some degree. How dare we get so caught up in our own day-to-day duties that we can’t sympathize and truly feel sorry for missing the mark. That IS our job…to do it right.
Lastly, I hope you’re able to apologize while confidently knowing the ins and outs of your business. You and your staff should be able to help pick up that nervous customer and make them feel comfortable in your care even if you made an error. If your customer doesn’t feel like they can trust you, then you have minimal value. Next time they need a repair shop, they’ll bypass your shop.
Errors will occur. Turn your shop’s mistakes and errors into an experience that endears your customers to you rather than makes them want to head right to Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, all their friends and people they pass on the street to talk about how terrible you are. In sum:
- Own your mistakes.
- Have compassion.
- Have integrity.
- Have knowledge with confidence.
Bring that customer in tight and take care of them until they leave with what you both know you should be delivering.
Micki Woods is a marketing and business development specialist for the automotive industry. She used to own her own body shop and was on the management team of one of the largest auto body shops in Los Angeles County. She now speaks, teaches and emcees events across the country. Visit Micki’s website at mickiwoodsmarketing.com or email her at [email protected].