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Communication Part 2: Writing Up Customer Concerns

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Our Shop Talk Blog shares the insider advice needed to increase profits & efficiency. Learn what's working right now for repair shops all across the country.

In the previous blog "Getting Info Before the Customer Arrives," we discussed how important proper communication is to the whole service process. We even did a breakdown of possible places that communication can fail. This blog we will focus on  writing up a customer and how to communicate better with them.

One of the most crucial points of communication in the service process is gathering all the customer’s concerns and requests in a clear and accurate way while putting them into the estimate. The rest of the service visit will be shaped by this one interaction; so if the information is incorrect, things can go very wrong.

Most customers cannot explain what is wrong with their vehicle. They just know something is not right. The service advisor needs to be able to ask all the right questions in simple terms that the customer can understand, and then forward that info to the technician.

The causes of most issues is the fact that the advisor is standing behind a service desk with the customer on the other side, while the vehicle is parked away outside in the parking lot. This leads to a lot of miscommunication.

The solution to this is simple; meet the customer by the car or go for a test drive. Many shops do not do this because they think it takes too much time when in reality, it saves more. Tablet technology allows for you to do the complete write-up in the vehicle too!

How I Saved Time by Going to the Vehicle

Tech to car.jpgA customer stated that they had a noise that needed fixing. It scared them because they don’t know the cause. Being that they were not able to describe it, I offered to go out to their car.

With both of us in the car, I start the engine, and am immediately surprised by the loud noise. Seeing my reaction, the customer says, “Oh don’t worry about that, it’s not that noise that scares me.”

In my head, I’m like, “If this isn’t the noise, what the hell noise is she scared of?” The noise is so loud that we need to raise our voices to speak over it. I note that the noise is coming from the lower dash panel under the steering wheel and, placing my knee against the panel, the noise stops.

“I hear it when I put the car in drive and take off,” she shares with me.

“Ok,” I answer, shifting into drive. As the transmission engages and drags the engine idle down a bit, I hear a “zinging” noise from under the car. “That’s it! That’s the noise! What is it?” she says.

I immediately know the cause, the catalytic converter shield had come loose and is vibrating against the exhaust as the engine RPM changes. I tell her what it is and that the fix is simple, we just tighten a steel band around it, and the noise will be gone.

The Lesson

I can tell you that any tech getting into that car, without the customer being present, would immediately identify the lower dash panel as the noise, put a few screws in it, and let it go; resulting in an angry customer even before they leave the parking lot.

Instead, taking the time up front saves lots of aggravation and time. It pays for itself.

Meeting and greeting a customer at their vehicle is easier than ever, thanks to tablet technology. Not only do you get all the vehicle information 100% correct, but you can go around the vehicle with the customer and show them why they need repairs. It’s kind of like “Show and Sell.

You can also identify, with the customer right there, any damage on the car before you touch it. This will limit the blame for any damage on the car. This alone is worth it.

The write-up is also far more personal. You are one-on-one by the vehicle, no shop noise or smells in the background; and no desk being a wall between you and the customer.

Communicating successfully is easy, and the results are huge. Look at your write-up process and see what changes you can make that will result in fewer issues, happy customers, and a better return on each job.

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Posted by John Burkhauser

John is an Auto Repair Specialist with over 30 years of experience—with expertise ranging from A Level & ASE Certified Master Tech, Shop Advisor/Manager, to Automotive Trade School Instructor, Technical Writer, and now Director of Education at BOLT ON.