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Having Realistic Expectations When Getting Your Car Repaired

Published on April 1, 2013 under Humble Mechanic

Hi everyone. Today I want to talk about having a realistic expectation when getting your car serviced or repaired. To some this may be a touchy subject. See when you talk about having realistic expectations as a customer, some people think that means settling for poor service. Friends, let me tell you it DOES NOT mean you need to settle for anything less than great service.

Here is why I think we need to have an honest talk about this. A customer came in for her free 10,000 mile service. This is part of the VW Free Maintenance package. It is a pretty simple service, basically just an oil change and tire rotation. We completed her service with out a  hitch. After a service, VW sends customers a survey. Customers can comment on how their service went. I can’t post her exact comment, so the next part is just a paraphrase.

It was disappointing that my clock was not changed to daylight savings time. I did not  changed it on purpose to see how thorough service was.

Just to sum that up, the customer was upset with us for not changing the time on her clock. Seems a little silly doesn’t it? She based her satisfaction on something that we didn’t know she wanted.

Now I have no problem changing a customer’s clock for them. Seriously it take just a few seconds. I mean really, I would be glad to do it. BUT, I made it a policy many years ago to not change a customer’s settings.

  • I do not change the radio station, I turn it off if I need to.
  • I don’t adjust the mirrors
  • I do not move the seat(unless I need to take the car on an extended test drive)
  • I wont change the MFD display
  • I do not change the A/C or heat settings

Who is to say that the customer did not have their clock set that way on purpose. If the clock was 10 minutes off should I change it? I generally pay zero attention to a customer’s clock.

Whenever a customer has a concern, I think about how I could handle it differently. About the only thing we could have done differently would be to ask the customer if they wanted their clock changed. That might be something I explore when we change the time on the clocks.

As a customer, the best way to get the that little extra is to ASK! It doesn’t matter if it is your mechanic, or your bartender. Most of the time doing those little things is no problem. I don’t think it is fair to be mad that something didn’t get done, that we didn’t know you wanted.

What do you think? Is it reasonable for a customer to be mad about that? Please post up your thoughts in the comments below.

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13 Comments

  1. Ryan

    That is a completely unrealistic thing for a customer to expect. If an important and required component of the service was neglected or the technician missed something else that was broken, etc. then that’s a reason to be unhappy. But the clock? Seriously? I agree with you that the tech should leave the customer’s settings alone. My brother was once upset because I fixed the clock on his car, because he had trained himself to add/subtract the amount it was off when he looked at it. Why he didn’t take 2 seconds to fix it when it was first off…not sure why.

  2. Heather

    That is the customer’s fault. If he/she wanted it changed and was aware of the issue they should have brought it up with the service advisory. I find it important to remember to change the clock if the battery was disconnected, but I agree not touching the radio and heat settings is important, people get weird about that.

  3. jim h

    Maybe a good middle ground is when the customer comes and drops off the key, they look at a form of what to been done (tire rotation, oil change) and they can write in any concerns or anything else that they may wanted up dated (clock, key fob unlocks everything with one click, car now runs on Mr Fusion and Rainbows) before signing off. The new “Sign and Go sit and wait” event at your local Volkswagen dealer!

    just a thought.

  4. Richard

    I agree that it’s unrealistic to think that the service department should check the clock, but at the same time, if that would have given you an A+ rating, it would probably be worth asking in the future by adding it to a checklist:

    [ ] Is the clock accurate

    For me, I don’t worry about the small things, and the clock story is actually rather funny. That said, I expect the following:
    – I’d rather you slightly over estimate vs. under estimate a bill. “Oh, that $385 repair is really $935, oops.”
    – Tell me when you don’t know what the problem is.
    – Don’t do something without asking (obvious)
    – Offer loners or a ride to the local rental place if needed (aka, be reasonable)
    – Give me realistic timeframes (or say, “I don’t know, but I’ll know more in X minutes/hours” and follow up)
    – If I’m waiting, pop in from time to time to give me a little update
    – If you have it up on the lift, take a minute or two to poke around for safety issues.

    This may sound silly, but the Toyota place in DC would tack on a free mini-inspection to every service they provided (even an oil change). Every single time, they would say, “We estimate that your tires have ~50K miles left on them.” “Your brake condition is good.” etc. etc. It let me plan my next service trip and prompted me to take care of things early. Whenever the guy said, “It’s been a while since you rotated your tires with us. Do you want me to knock that out while you’re here?” I almost always said, “yes.” (obviously within reason)

    For the most part, I’m rather happy with my service center since moving to NC. My only complaint would be that I occasionally feel like they simply want to get me out the door (regardless of the condition of the vehicle).

  5. J Draper

    I just wish I could fix my car like in the old days. I love computers, but it sure makes fixing one’s own car a bit of a mystery. Google is great of course to find out info, but it can be challenging to find out the codes and such necessary to diagnose problems…glad I have a great mechanic that I really trust!

    J Draper

  6. Bruce G Hoag

    This is a great description of what probably happens to all of us.

    I can tell you for myself that I get a little annoyed when I find that the radio has been retuned. That’s because I listen to classic music. It’s a bit of a jolt to flip on the radio and be greeted with a blast of sound that leaves both ears ringing.

    My other gripe is when the seat hasn’t been returned to its original spot. That’s because I have a long legs. If it has been pulled up very far, then I can’t get in.

    I don’t mind the mirrors that much. I know that they need to do that in order to avoid running into other things.

    But, on the whole, I think that mechanics ought to be a bit more considerate of the settings in the car, and do their best to return them that way.

  7. PPI

    What a silly complaint to have, the customer went out of her way to be negative and difficult. If she wanted the clock changed she should have asked specifically. You have to just grin and bare it when you work in a service industry.

  8. Cruzn Mechanics

    Its all about setting out what the customer can expect from the get-go. This situation exist across the board in all industries. I think its a bit more important in the service industry especially the repair business. People can have all kinds of ideas in their heads and its up to the service provider to really set out what the customer is to expect.

  9. James

    This is a great blog! I feel your pain. At the shops I’ve worked at, I’ve been ripped by bosses and Customers for things like turning the HVAC controls off, adjusting the seat, etc. for test drives. I’ve even been scolded for turning a radio off for a NVH test drive…

  10. Dustin

    I recently had a customer come in for some minor repairs. Valve cover gaskets, oil change, and tune up. When bringing the car in I rolled down th driver’s window (like I always do) so the keys won’t get locked in it on accident. I’m sure every mechanic has the same routine because it has happened at the worst possible time. Anyway the window fell down(on a jeep) so I propped it up, used the passenger window, and estimated the repair to the customer. Well when the survey came in, the owner thought the service writer did a great job but why the mechanic put the window down(that he knew about) is beyond him. My thought here is he should have said something before hand, (just like setting the clock). I started to get a little upset with this guy but just brushed it off. After 11 years as a mechanic I have learned that good service is subjective. Everyone has different expectations. Just be as thorough as possible, and communicate everything as much and honestly as you can.

    1. Charles

      I do that same thing with the windows Dustin. In 10 years I have locked keys in a car 1 time.

      We know that sometimes things happen. I think most folks understand that same thing, but they just don’t believe it when it happens to them. Good documentation is vital!

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