Collision Shop Diplomacy
Recently I was reviewing an article in AutoInc, involving a “picky customer” case history at a collision repair facility. The question was what would you do if you had a customer you simply could not satisfy? No matter what you offered to do or had done to achieve a near perfect repair, this customer would find fault with the repair and demand more work be done to correct the perceived flaws.
As a sales rep years ago, I found myself in the same position, when a really good account called about a color match issue. The owner of the car in question had told them prior to giving them the car that they were very concerned about being ripped off with poor quality work and would be looking closely at the finished product. When the color was mixed, the paint tech noticed the variance and called me after being unable to correct it.
I tried several times to bring the color to a close match but had little success. Our Honda Bahama Gold formula was just not going to match the vehicle. I took the time to walk around the car and noted that on all adjoining panels – rear quarters to doors, doors to front fenders and fenders to hood – nothing matched! There were at least 3 other shades of Bahama Gold on the car. This car had been in 3 or 4 accidents over its lifetime and as a result not one panel matched an adjacent panel. No amount of blending was going to fool the customer’s eye due to all the mismatch issues on the car.
This explained the owners fear of being “ripped off” but made the collision repair shops issue worse. How do they match what doesn’t have a match anywhere on the vehicle? That was the question posed to me. The painter and I sat and discussed it for a few minutes and we worked out a solution that would cost us both time and materials but it would and did satisfy the customer.
What was the solution? I provided the additional paint and clear coat plus the appropriate reducers; helped tape off the vehicle and the shop wet sanded the whole vehicle and did an all over paint job. It was like glass and the customer could not find any color issues. The job was done late at night so it didn’t interfere with production.
Did it cost the shop and my company? Yes. Did the customer find any flaws in the repair? No. Is this the answer to every customer issue? No way. Just remember that this customer went away satisfied and the shop received a lot of work from her family and friends as a result.
Pick your battles; think about how you’re going to spend your resources of time, labor and products. You want a satisfied customer in almost every case, you also need to make a profit to keep the shop running and keep talented employees. Always remember to balance the cost vs the outcome in every customer interaction.