This happens frequently, with many shops experiencing a frustrating issue with what we tend to identify as “difficult” customers. A passenger car enters the shop for a reported “brake noise.” Your inspection reveals badly scored front rotors, a badly rusted right rear rotor, stuck calipers, badly worn front pads and flexible brake hoses that have seen better days.
You explain that the repair will require replacement of front and rear rotors, front and rear calipers, pads, hoses and a flush and bleed. You provide a written quote and the customer agrees. The parts are ordered from your local supplier and arrive within the next 20 minutes.
Your technicians complete the job in a thorough and professional manner. The work was performed correctly, verified by a road test. After the customer plops down their credit card and pays the bill, they drive off into the sunset. Job done, right? Well, maybe.
Seven days later, the same customer returns, foaming at the mouth, claiming that “a few days after you fixed my brakes, my engine started making a screeching noise. The engine got hot and my power steering isn’t working.” As luck would have it, the engine’s serpentine belt tensioner decided that was the time to fail, and the belt flopped off of its pulleys.
Of course, since you touched the car, they claim it’s your fault.
An example of a different scenario is “a week after you worked on my car, the ABS warning light came on for no good reason, so you must have broken something when you did my brakes.”
You calmly explain that the brake service had nothing at all to do with the belt issue, and no belt drive problems were apparent when the car was in the shop. If a problem was suspected, you would have notified the customer in order to inform them and to obtain their permission to perform the additional service. With regard to the ABS light, you plug in your scanner, and quickly determine that the right front speed sensor has simply opted to fail at this time. You refer to your service records and note that the technician did perform a scan before the vehicle left, at which time no ABS codes were present.
At this point, some customers are able to understand, and although upset, their initial anger directed at the shop diminishes and they agree to have the tensioner and belt (or wheel speed sensor) replaced.
They eventually understand that the current problem was merely coincidental relative to the time line of the brake job.
However, some owners (the aforementioned “difficult” or “challenging” customers) steadfastly point the finger at you, insisting that “everything was fine until I brought the car to you.”
If the customer simply won’t listen to reason, and although you might prefer to tell them to take their business elsewhere in the future, you resist the urge and you may decide to take the high road in an attempt to appease them by offering a discount to repair the newly discovered problem.
Cases like this are too frequent when dealing with vehicle owners who don’t understand (or refuse to understand) anything about how a vehicle works. This type of customer seems to always be looking for a scapegoat in order to lay the blame anywhere except themselves or the reality that sometimes, things simply wear out or happen to fail.
How do you deal with this type of customer-relations challenge? We welcome our readers to share their experiences and to offer solutions with regard to how you resolve this type of dispute. ■
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