The following are responses to our question, “What Would You Do?” regarding a Phantom Fix that was done in just a few minutes (see July issue, page 14). The question was, “Would you charge this customer for this repair?” As you can see, the responses differ somewhat, but all are interesting. We enjoy receiving your responses, and hope other shops can learn something from those who wrote in. On page 42 we have a new “What Would You Do?” question regarding techs who have taken items out of a customer’s vehicle. If you would like to comment on how you would handle this situation, share a similar story or provide a question for an upcoming column, just e-mail us at [email protected].
Do You Know Your Customer?
Phantom fixes should be considered as that – maybe that you fixed it, maybe that you didn’t. Will they come back next week and say it happened again?
It depends on if you know the customer. Are they regulars, first-time customers, friends, an elderly person with a fixed income or your neighborhood charity case? Or are they one of those customers that when you see them coming, you want to run out the back door?
The question becomes “How much time did I spend on it?” This is where you make the decision. If you have signs saying “free electrical check,” “free air” or “free this and that,” then they will expect it to be free.
So when they say, “How much do I owe you,” you reply, “Don’t worry about it, you’ve been a good customer for years and you’re like family around here.”
In most cases, we get cookies, sandwiches, cold refreshments in summer, and a big “Thank you.” That’s all it takes for us.
George Magoulas, owner
Starlite Auto Service
Don’t Do ‘Parking Lot Diagnosis’
So a tow truck pulls in with a Honda and a pretty lady driver. The tech walks out to the parking lot to find out what is wrong with the Honda. She says it cranks, but won’t start. He hits the key and in one second, says, “It tossed the timing belt.” He walks away with his chest puffed out not knowing he just screwed himself out of at least $25-35 in diagnostic fees.
It is simple – just don’t do “parking lot diagnosis and repairs.” .
Who else let’s us look over their shoulder when they work on our stuff? Have you ever been behind the counter at your local TV and VCR repair shop? Ever go behind the counter at Sears while they work on your washer?.
Write the ticket, take them home or place them in your waiting room and find and fix the problem. Then bill them a fair price.
Mark Salem, owner
Building Customer Loyalty
This comes up many times in our shop and we have always made it a point to not charge the customer. If the job is just a little quick thing and we have the time to help them, then we always make a point to help. This attitude has gotten us more repeat business and loyalty from the customer. The customer is always a little shocked at first when you tell them, not to worry about it and to have a nice day..
I always explain to them that if they have any more trouble with it, that we will have to make an appointment and check it out further. If a shop tries to help the customer as much as possible, then that customer will stay loyal to the shop. But as soon as the customer thinks he/she has been taken advantage of or ripped off, they not only do not come back, but they will tell half the town about what “jerks” work at that shop.
Randy E Vaughn, owner/technician
Vaughn’s Auto Repair   Watseka, IL
What Is Your Standard Operating Procedure?
I believe the answer is twofold as follows:
First, the technicians at the shop should have been trained that any vehicle to be inspected, any system to be tested or any repair to be made must start with a customer-authorized repair/work order. This standard operating procedure would have totally eliminated the question and the uneasy “on the spot decision” to charge, not charge, etc.
The office/service writer, owner or whomever should have gotten approval for whatever dollar amount was deemed appropriate for the customer’s compliant or symptom. The customer would have agreed to it before a technician ever got involved.
Unfortunately, our technical hero already volunteered for the job. When you volunteer for something, how can you then charge? You can’t.
If the technician was the owner, well, OK then, it’s his buck. But if the tech is an employee, you may (as to make a point only) present him with a similar bill for him picking up Mrs. Jones’ tab.
Our industry must begin to professionalize the important service we provide to the public. As with any business, we need rules to work by which establish consistent, fair and appropriate behavior.
In addition, if Mrs. Jones were in fact a great customer and just recently had a service performed, using my scenario, how wonderful it would have been to say following the repair (which may have only taken a little while), “Mrs. Jones, forget the charge today. We really appreciate your business.”
Mrs. Jones would have then realized a savings due to the discounted bill.
Linc Lewis, general manager
Mezzio Auto & Body Repair
Want It Fixed? Here’s Your Cost
In your July issue, you described a situation where a customer comes in and you replaced a fuse or plugged something in to the radio to make it work again. It only took seconds to do….
I’ve been in that situation plenty of times before. Here is my take on it – I tell everyone, “I didn’t make it. I didn’t break it. And I don’t own it. However, I do make my money fixing them. So if you would like me to fix it, this is what it will cost.”
Now, I do not stand with both feet on this. I will pull a customer history if I don’t recognize the customer to see how much they mind or don’t mind spending money. If the history reveals someone who just wants to skate by on duct tape and bubble gum repairs, then I’ll charge them. If the history reveals someone who wants their vehicle fixed properly, then about 80% of the time I’ll just thank them warmly and will not accept any payment.
Robert O. Kling, ASE Master Technician
Juno Beach Tire & Auto Center
Juno Beach, FL
‘What Would You Do?’ – Trunk Temptations
In this installment of “What Would You Do?” we take a look at the issue of respecting privacy and personal property inside your customers’ vehicles. The following was reported by Paul Bailey, a collision repairman for more than 20 years and contributor to our sister magazine, BodyShop Business.
Okay, we’ve all seen plenty of vehicles with the trunk loaded with laundry, office supplies, toys or other personal belongings. As difficult as it is to resist the urge to explore, we should remember that there’s a fine line between curiosity and invasion of privacy. The fact that people leave things in their cars when they drop them off doesn’t give us any more right to snoop than we had when the car was parked in the customer’s driveway.
A few years back, I was assigned a Honda Accord that came to me with the trunk, the back seat and even the front passenger seat absolutely LOADED with boxes slightly larger than a VHS videotape. Each box contained a VHS tape, an information pamphlet and a Viagra sample. I don’t think anyone could have squeezed another Viagra sample into that car.
It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – By the time that car was in the shop a whole day, it had become the brunt of every joke you can possibly imagine (and a few others you can’t imagine).
Viagra samples were left on tool boxes, work benches and even the manager’s desk with little sticky notes attached, reading, “from your loving wife, boyfriend, cousin, etc.”
I seriously doubt if all those samples made their way back into the car before it left. Had the owner known exactly how many samples were in the car when it was dropped off, he could have easily called us thieves and could easily have proven it. And had the owner come to check on the car and seen his personal property scattered all over the shop, we could have easily lost his business as well as the business of everyone he spoke to about the situation.
Ordinarily I’m quite open-minded and have a pretty active sense of humor. However, because I was the tech working on the car and most likely the one who would have been stuck with the blame, I wasn’t happy about all the joking around.
So, what would you do? As a technician, have you ever witnessed a similar incident in which items from a customer’s vehicle were passed around the shop? Did you let the other techs know that this was something wrong, or were you a participant in the “innocent fun”?
Or is this incident too hard to believe and it’s doubtful that it would ever happen at your shop?
If you’re a shop owner, what would you do if you saw such an incident occur? Have you ever had to let an employee go because they “borrowed” something from a customer’s car?
We’d like to hear from you. E-mail your comments on this incident or ideas for future installments of “What Would You Do?” to [email protected].
Or you can write to us at: Underhood Service Attn: WWYD 3550 Embassy Parkway Akron, OH 44333-8318