Tag Archive for: BAD Customer Service

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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.

Today we are going to talk about a bit of a sensitive topic.

Should a repair shop be able to keep your car if it is unsafe?

Let me set the stage. A customer brings their car into the shop. The mechanic takes it on a short test drive, and finds the brakes barely work. After inspecting the car, the mechanic finds that the brakes are leaking fluid. This prevents the brakes from engaging. It is only a matter of a few miles before the car will loose all braking.

As you might guess, this is a very serious situation. I don’t think that I need to go into detail about how not having brakes is a bad thing. Not only does it endanger the driver, but all the other drivers on the road. Now the words that scare everyone come out of the customer’s mouth “I am not going to fix the car”.

Okay, we have established the fact the car is 100% unsafe. We also know that the customer is not fixing the car. What happens next?

The Shop Attempts to Keep The Car
What were to happen if a service station attempted to keep a car. I don’t think it would take very long for the situation to escalate. I am sure that law enforcement would get involved. Laws do very from state to state, but I could not find any state that said a service shop could keep a customer from there car. In fact I seemed to find the opposite. Shops can not get in the way of a customer taking their property. It is really that simple.

The Customer Takes The Unsafe Car
This is a very serious situation. Best case the customer gets the car home and parks it. Giving them time to get the car repaired. Worst case, the customer gets into an accident. You can fill in the blank on how bad that could be.

From a service department prospective, this is a HUGE liability. If that customer were to get into an accident, the blame would be immediately be focused on the service department. It would go something like,

I was just at the service place. They didn’t tell me that it was unsafe. I don’t know anything about cars. I trusted them to keep me safe.

The customer has a point. They do trust the service department to keep them safe. However, the customer the one that makes the choice to repair or not to repair.

In a perfect world, no cars would ever break. If they did break, everyone would have the time and money to fix them. So how does a shop handle a situation like this? If after informing a customer of the severity of the situation, they decline the repair. The shop will add a special note to the customers repair order stating the issue and the car in “UNSAFE”. Some refer to this as “red tagging”. The customer will then have to sign saying they understand.

What do you folks think? Should a shop be able to keep an unsafe car from leaving the lot? Or would shops use that as a “scare tactic” to strong arm customers in to paying for repairs? Post up your thoughts in the comments below. This is one that a strong case can be made on BOTH sides.

Don’t forget the enter the contest to win a Snap-On magnetic tray. All the details are listed at the bottom of yesterday’s Shop Shots post. I will pick a winner on Friday 10/05/12 in the evening.

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If you have been following the site for any length of time, you know I am 100% about customer service. I that is really one of the most fun parts of my job. Well at my first job, I was told “The customer is always right”. I use to buy all in to that statement. Of course the customer is always right, RIGHT?

That statement caught my attention a few days ago. Someone on TV made mention of it, and it got be thinking. I was thinking how in my job, the customer is rarely right. If they were ALWAYS right, what the heck would they need me for? 😉

If I let my customers tell me everything that was wrong with their car, I would be in a world of hurt. Take this for example.

A customer comes in to my shop and tells me their check engine light is on. They also inform me that they think it is a Oxygen Senor.

Now if I just blindly followed “The customer is always right”, I would install an O2 sensor and send them out the door. Don’t think for a second that the situation doesn’t happen, it does, a lot! How mad would a customer be if I (knowingly) did this? Well an O2 sensor runs about $280, so my guess is pretty mad.

The reason that people bring their cars to me is for ME to be right. I owe it to my customers to be right, and to let them know that they are wrong. Another perfect example is when I found out that a customer is “topping up” their gas tank. That is when the pump shuts off and you “top it up” to the next dollar. If a customer tells me they do that, I MUST tell them they are wrong. If I don’t, then I am the one that is wrong. I know better, and it is my job to tell them.

This is not just being a mechanic. This goes for ANYONE in just about ANY job. If I called an electrician, he better tell me I am doing something wrong. I could get hurt. It doesn’t matter if you are a plumber, and car detailer, or nurse anything. If you are a professional, YOU need to be the one that is right!

So by now you might be thinking, “wow Charles, you are not really customer service minded are you?”. The truth is, that is what I am ALL about. I would never say “Hey stupid you are doing it wrong” to a customer. That would be stupid. 😉 Just really think for a second about how much it could cost someone if I let them think they were ALWAYS right. I care enough about my customers to be honest with them. Sometime that means telling them “You are wrong”. Like I said, if I don’t, then I am wrong.

If you are a professional, you will do the right thing for the customer, every time, no matter what. THAT is what the face of caring about your customers look like! Just remember, with our customers, there is no need for YOU! 🙂

I am REALLY sure that someone will be pissed off at me for writing this post! This story will be a great example of cheaper is not better, and how important it is to have a mechanic you can rely on.

I got a text from my little sister Ashley. She asked my “how long is it ok to drive without that big plastic piece underneath the car?” I may have said it before, but she drives a really nice 1999 VW Passat wagon. Her car has a plastic shield, or belly pan, under the car. It covers up the oil pan and prevents things from getting up into the engine. Her car will run with out it, but it is something that needs to be there.

This is a picture of a good belly pan. When this falls off, it's $200+ down the drain, or down the highway 😉

So, I get the text, and text her back, “What happened to your belly pan”. She tells me that she took it to a place to get the oil changed that was not the dealer. The later then belly pan fell off while she was driving down the highway. The bad part is, the pan is totally destroyed.

Trying to be a good brother, I called the place and talked to the service manager. He was polite enough, but I could tell that he had no interest in dealing with me. I also called the local VW dealer. Basically the same treatment, but I was able to get the information that I needed. It turns out the cost of a new belly pan and related hardware was about $230.

The manager from the quick lube called her back and told her that they would pay up to $50 for a replacement belly pan, leaving her with a $170 bill. So far she has be out about 2 hours of her time, $35 for an oil change, and add on $170 for the belly pan. When I asked her why only $50, she said they told her it was held on with zipties and it was already damaged. That might be true, but why didn’t they tell her that when they were servicing the car? Not only that, but I have used zipties to attach belly pans, it works REALLY well.

This is Ashley's 1999 VW Passat wagon.

After some fighting, she got her belly pan replaced. It took several phone calls and I think her and her dad had to go down there, but it is fixed. She learned a few life lessons with this experience.

  1. Cheaper is almost never better. I still learn this one from time to time.
  2. There is a difference in getting your car serviced at a good dealer vs anywhere else.
  3. The people that work on your car better know what the heck they are doing
  4. Wasting time to try and save money is a bad choice.
  5. If a place does something wrong, YOU have to fight to make it right. Do not let someone walk all over you.

Well Ashley, sorry you had to be the topic of this post, but I thought it would be a good story to help everyone out. I am really glad you got your car fixed, and to quote her, “I know that now. First and only time I didn’t/wont take it to the dealer”.


I am a little reluctant to even write this post. I try t be really positive about things that happen in the shop, and this is a story about something not so positive. I am also reluctant because I don’t want to talk junk about the people that I work with. When I make a mistake, I have no problem telling you guys about it, but what I am about to tell you is about someone else.

Yesterday, I worked on a customers car, this customer has been one of my best customers over the years. She is a little old lady, and is as sweet as can be. She reminds me a lot of my grandma, who is one of my favorite people in the world.

When she came to pick her car up, they service advisor called me to the front. She told me that the work I just finished did not fix her car. Based on the week I was having, I would not have been surprised. She smiled and told me she was just messing with me(a taste of my own medicine). About 15 minutes went by, and another advisor paged me. They told be that someone had rear ended the lady. The auto park I work in has an awful intersection at the top of a small hill.

I drove up to the intersection to see if she was okay. She was really shaken up, but physically fine. The guy that hit her was totally fine. As I looked at the damage of both cars, I knew that she didn’t get rear ended, she must have pulled out in front of the guy. Her Beetle took some damage on the right side. The Mazda the other guy was driving didn’t do so well. The whole front of the car was destroyed. I helped her call a friend to come get her. I was also able to nurse the car out of the intersection and into a parking spot at the Porsche dealer. The cops came and did what they had to, and when her friend showed up, I went back to work.

30 or so minutes later, I get another page to come up to the service drive. The customer was there to pickup some info about where to have her car towed. We chatted for a minute, I gave her the information she needed so she was just about set.

This is where the story gets bad. I am writing this  and I know my blood pressure is gonna be sky high! This poor lady was just in a car accident, she was visibly shaken up, and asked for some water. Now, we have 2 drinking fountain in the waiting room, we have a vending machine in the waiting room, and we have FREE drinks up stairs. My service advisor looks her dead in the face and says “There is free water just up the stairs if you want that’. Guys, my jaw hit the floor. How the hell are you gonna tell this poor lady to walk up the stairs and get her own drink????? Thankfully, my service manager was standing right there and went to get it for her.

Now, I don’t pretend to be a customer service expert or anything, but what type of person does that? How would you feel if that was your mother or your grandmother? I didn’t say anything to the advisor, because what would be the point. Someone that would do that will never get why that is so bad. Really, how can you call yourself a man if that is how you would treat someone in the situation! I hate to admit that someone at my dealer would do that, but I have told you guys before, I will always be 100% honest with you!

Today, I went up to take some pics of the car. It honestly might total her beetle. The car is a 2000, so it wont take a ton of money to total it. It will most likely be better to just scrap it and for her to get a new car.

I have worked really hard over my career to try and get rid of bad customer service stereotypes at the dealer. This like this really set everyone back! So, what do you guys think? Am I just blowing this WAY out of proportion? Should I have said something to him about it? I would love to know your thoughts!