One of the most commonly asked questions at any type of sales or management seminar is “How do I handle problem customers?” The problem customer tends to drive most automotive shop owners crazy. What is a problem customer? A problem customer is someone who demands special handling and unusual solutions. Here are ten indicators that you probably have a problem customer in front of you. Problem customers say (and do) things like this:
• “I have my own parts, but can you put them on for me?”
• “I called the dealer and found out that I could have bought the exhaust output muffler bearing for less than what you charged me.”
• “Can you tell me what the firing order is for my 1989 Chevrolet?”
• “Don’t worry about the fact that the brakes won’t stop the car, just do that ‘special’.”
• “Since you worked on my car, I can’t seem to tune in to Radio Moscow anymore.”
• “You opened the door and my engine fan flew off and destroyed my radiator. What are you going to do about it?”
• “Can you put an Allison Transmission in my Toyota?”
• A customer calls you from Outer Mongolia about his failed fan clutch that you once worked on. He insists that you give him $800, the amount it cost him to tow his car to the nearest shop. He also says that he wants $1500 for his hotel bill from his three-day stay at the if-you-got-to-ask-the-rate-you-can’t-afford-it hotel. He also mentions that he intends to collect for his loss of wages and at least $1000 for emotional distress.
• A customer with a name like Mr. Super Critical-Jones, owner of the car from hell, demands that you completely redo the job on his car because it is still not working right. Of course, you can’t find anything wrong with it. You have worked on his car six times and he has never once been satisfied.
• A guy calls you and says that he is the boyfriend of a woman whose car you just fixed. He claims that the car didn’t need that much work and that you have ripped her off. He threatens to sue you.
Even dealing with a few of these types of customers a week is enough to increase your blood pressure to well over 400. Unfortunately, the tendency is to start creating unusual company policies to make sure that you NEVER have this kind of problem again. You start running your business to handle the problem customer. This is a mistake. You tend to remember only the troublesome customers, and not the majority of really nice people that come into your shop, who go along with the way that you do business, and refer their friends to you. The right way to run a successful operation that makes you lots of money is to pay attention to those quiet, non-troublesome customers that are fairly easy to deal with and who are the real reason you are in business.
Quit running your business for the problem customer! You would be better off if you would refer all of them to some other shop in town. When you recognize that you have a problem customer in front of you, be polite and indicate that, unfortunately, you are probably not the one that can best handle the customer’s car problems. You can, however, recommend a shop down the street that would be better qualified to service his/her needs.
Management Success! Auto Shop Analysis