As an auto mechanic my job is to fix cars. Sounds like a simple equation but the business is so much more complicated than it appears on the surface. To be a truly successful auto shop you have to do a lot more than making sure the vehicle leaves in good condition. You have to make sure the customer leaves in good condition as well! It all revolves around meeting, and hopefully exceeding expectations.
So, what do our clients expect when they bring in their prized possession?
They expect to be treated honestly.
The estimated cost and time to complete the repair has to be as accurate as humanly possible to allow them to make an educated decision. There are so many things that can affect the accuracy of an estimate, such as the availability of parts (especially these days), or hidden problems like rusty bolts or broken components that are not visible until the car is up in the air. Sometimes we need to have a closer look at the car before we can give an accurate estimate. We never sell the customer work they don’t need, but we owe it to them to be honest if there are issues that we find, especially if they are safety related. We always let the customer make the decision.
They expect to be treated fairly.
In my thirty-five years as a mechanic, I can tell you the worst feeling a customer can leave with is thinking they have been “ripped off”. Car repairs are not cheap, and nobody wakes up in the morning expecting their vehicle to break down, and they might not have the money set aside, but it happens. They arrive thinking you will sell them something they don’t need and charge them an arm and a leg for it. The key is to introduce the customer to the mechanic especially on complex jobs and take them out to their vehicle to show them the situation first hand. Like the old game of “telephone” sometimes information gets lost between the customer, the front counter and the technicians. We try to take the customer’s personal situation into account. Some people want to use the most expensive parts and others want to do the repair on a budget. Again, we’re looking after more than just the car here. Communications is the key to fairness. Keep everybody in the loop. Give them the good news with the not-so-good news and show them what’s going on all the way through the process.
They expect to be treated with respect.
There is wide range of knowledge when it comes to the complexities of the modern-day car or truck. There are more lines of software code in an F-150 today than there were in the space shuttle (no really!), so getting all the detail you need to complete the job becomes an exercise in diplomacy. Again, it is sometimes better to talk to the customer with the car in the same room and the situation becomes instantly clear without requiring an in-depth knowledge of all the bits and pieces. The “Golden Rule” is a mainstay of our business.
They expect you to do exactly as promised.
The price of the repair, the time it takes to complete and top-quality parts and workmanship are all reasonable expectations when a client hands you their keys. As a business we have to help set those expectations by being up front with the things we believe need to be done to a vehicle and outline the possible “What-ifs.” We need to provide an accurate time estimate, again with an honest list of possible extenuating circumstances, and we need most of all to fix the car right, the first time, or stand behind our work if it doesn’t meet expectations. If the parts arrive on time, and complications do not arise, it’s easy to be a great mechanic. It takes a lot more finesse to have the customer leaving in perfect condition as well.