When you repair a truck for a customer, you’re not just providing parts and service. You’re also providing peace of mind. You’re providing the customer assurance they can get back to work — that the problems of that service call are behind them.
So when it turns out they’re not, and the truck breaks down again, you can’t be surprised to get an angry phone call.
Your customers rely on their vehicles for their livelihood, and on you to keep those vehicles running. Waiting for a truck to be repaired once can be bad enough; a second service call to correct a previous failure or mistake is a luxury most customers cannot afford.
(Fleets say it’s also a major factor in how they choose their service providers. For more, CLICK HERE.)
But no one has a perfect record when it comes to service, and even when a dealer does everything right parts can fail and trucks can break down. It happens.
The best way to get through these stressful situations is to be honest, understanding and proactive in making things right. Just because a customer enters your facility under duress doesn’t mean they have to leave that way.
Mistakes happen; but there’s no reason to complicate them with poor customer service.
“Sometimes front-line people that are forced to handle angry customers can take their anger and discomfort personally, but the big key is to not take it personally,” says Mark Martincic with KEA Advisors.
As the first employees to encounter a disgruntled customer during a service return, your managers and counter associates are crucial to making sure a warranty work return goes smoothly, he says.
This is the point where a customer’s emotions and stress level are running the highest, adds Kent Ely with KEA Advisors. Anger and yelling aren’t uncommon, and it is the responsibility of your employees to be empathetic to customer concerns and to pinpoint exactly what went wrong.
“If you are a quality dealership, you’re going to take care of the vehicle and make it right. You’re going to fix what went wrong, so there’s no reason to fight about that,” says Martincic. “Your job is to analyze why they are angry, diffuse their anger and see what you can do to fix [the truck].
“Your job is to listen to them and come up with a solution.”
Once you’ve calmed down the customer and uncovered why they’ve returned, you can begin the process of making things right.
Martincic and Ely first recommend pulling the customer’s records for their previous trip to your facility. Your documentation should show exactly what you just repaired or replaced, and — along with your customer’s information — should give you a good idea of possible trouble spots when you get the truck into your diagnostic bay. He adds to do that as fast as you can.
“[The truck] needs to be treated as a priority, and you should tell the customer that it’s a priority,” he says.
Once you have a diagnosis, don’t sugarcoat what you find. Be up front and tell the customer everything you can as soon as you can.
“You have to be honest [with the customer]. They won’t like how long the truck [is] going to be down no matter how long it is, but they have to know,” Martincic says. “They have to know the truth so they can make other plans.”
Not all returns will fall on your service department. Some returns will be the result new parts malfunctioning or improperly installed components, but others may be unrelated breakdowns. Driver mistakes, overloaded trailers and previously undiagnosed issues also can lead to returns.
“In defense of the service guys, I think the diagnostic processes can have something to do with returns,” Martincic says.
Technicians are trained to diagnose, repair and turn over bays as quickly as possible, says Greg Reimmuth, vice president of sales and marketing at Noregon Systems. Because of this, some can get caught up repairing exactly what a diagnostic test says and don’t take the time to investigate what is causing the breakdown.
(This also can lead to technicians losing their mechanical edge, which is a growing risk in the aftermarket. For more on that, CLICK HERE.)
“Finding root cause will make sure your technician fixes exactly what’s wrong,” he says.
“It’s not always the technicians fault,” adds Martincic. “The customer just wants the truck up and running again so the technician does what’s necessary to do that.”
When customers push your service department like that, make sure they know the risks.
“Tell a customer up front if more problems may arise,” Martincic says. “They need to know something may happen and it may fail again.”
That honesty will be valued. Customers appreciate knowing you’re looking out for them, and any chance to show that can help increase customer loyalty.
“When it comes down to it, the best process is to just give your best to every customer,” Martincic says. “Show them that you care every time.”
Note: The ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) is currently working to complete a recommended practice titled “Conflict Resolution,” dealing with this issue. To assist in the RP writing process, or for more information about the RP, contact TMC here or attend the council’s fall meeting in Pittsburgh.