Get the Most out of Your Next Shop Visit
I came to the automotive industry after more than a decade with a communications company. What I have come to realize in my experience in this industry is that most problems between auto repair shops and their clients are a result of faulty communication. It can be hard to understand the mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering aspects of cars. It's like going to your dentist or your doctor. You do not know what is wrong but you know you need it fixed. Here are 8 quick tips that can help you get the most out of your next auto repair shop.
Communicate the Symptoms
When you take your car to a shop for a repair, be sure to give the Service Advisor an accurate description of the symptoms your vehicle has. You know your vehicle better than anyone else. Carefully describe what you are feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing, etc. Jot down what you were doing when it happened, what the weather was like, how long the car had been running, your speed, etc. The Service Advisor will communicate your information to the Technician so that the appropriate tests can be completed. The more information you provide at the onset, the lower your testing costs will be and the more accurate your diagnosis.
As the vehicle problem surfaces, take a moment to document what happened. "When I started the car this morning it cranked several times before it would start. I drove it to the store and noticed the battery light was on. When I came out of the store, I could not get the car to start." This will let the Technician know what types of tests to start with so we can accurately resolve the root cause of the car's symptoms. We want you back on the road as quickly and safely as possible.
Be Clear With Your Auto Repair Expectations
Another communication gap with clients and shops is misunderstood expectations. Shops are juggling emergency calls all day. The best way to ensure your expectations are met is to communicate them with crystal clear clarity. Things that are important to you should be shared with your Advisor. Some examples:
- Do you need your car back by a certain time?
- Be clear on what you want the shop to do.
- "Please find out what is causing XYZ and then call me for authorization."
- "Perform an oil service and tire rotation please."
- "Would you determine what is causing ABC? If you can fix it for less than $800.00, please get it done."
- If you do not understand something your Advisor has said, ask questions until you do understand. Do not be embarrassed because you do not understand right away. Cars are complex and the complexity is growing more each year. It is our job to help you understand.
Do Not Expect an On the Spot Auto Repair Diagnosis
Just like going to the doctor, when you check-in with registration they cannot provide you a diagnosis. Service Advisors cannot provide information like that either. The reason? They have not looked at your car. Cars have changed a lot since the first one hit the road. We have cars in the shop all the time that have double digit computers in them. There is no way to guess accurately. Symptoms lead us to tests. Test results lead us to the root cause. Then we can prescribe an accurate 'fix' to your vehicle problem.
I know you are concerned about what is wrong and what it will cost and how you will get to work. Until a thorough inspection is done and proper testing is completed, we find we lose time in the 'what if'. I would much rather take the time to get you a proper answer so you can make educated decisions. You do not want your doctor guessing at what is making your mom sick. We don't want to guess at what is making your car sick either.
Tell the Truth
Like going to the doctor, you must tell the truth. Sometimes people are afraid that if they tell a shop the truth, it will cost more. That simply could not be further from the truth. The more honest you are, the better chance we will find an answer for you more timely. Tell us if someone tried to fix the car, if the temp gauge went in the red, or if the battery was connected backwards. The more accurate the information you give, the faster the problem can be identified and the proper repairs can be recommended. Leaving out critical facts almost always results in additional problems and expense to you.
Leave Accurate Contact Information
Another really critical tip is to let the Advisor know how you can be reached at a moment's notice. It is very important that you can be immediately contacted to make decisions about your vehicle repair needs. It takes time to test your car. Technicians usually need to remove things on your car to get an accurate test result. If they have to reassemble your car because you were not readily available once the testing was complete, your costs may increase. Why? Because the technician will have to remove the parts again when you authorize the repair.
If for some reason you will be unavailable, it's in your best interest to authorize repairs up to an agreed upon dollar amount when the vehicle is dropped off. Not being able to communicate with a customer is one of the biggest difficulties shops run into. This usually results in unhappy customers because the work may not be completed timely.
It Is What It Is
When the shop calls to advise you the results of your tests, it can sometimes be an emotional and frustrating experience. Costs may be more than you expect or the damage far greater than you want to hear. Your Advisor is your biggest advocate. S/he is working on your behalf to get the answers you need from your car doctor so you can make educated decisions timely. Cars are made of mechanical and electrical parts that do not have an infinite shelf life. Everything dies. We are here to help you. If you do not understand, make a trip to the shop and let us show you what we see. We believe a well-educated consumer is more likely to be a happy client. It is a Win-Win for you to understand the service being provided.
Every shop owner I have been blessed to meet is working hard to keep you happy. They know unhappy customers do not return and that's not the way to run a successful business. Things can happen in the industry that create delays. Incorrect parts delivered, sick employees, emergency repairs, and small jobs that turn into bigger jobs are all a part of our business. These are challenges we run into daily. We work to keep this 'drama' away from you as much as possible.
Operating a shop is a lot like running an emergency room in a hospital. If your car comes in with strange symptoms or for major repairs, the shop will not know exactly what it will need for parts until the patient is on the lift and opened up. And then we must work quickly and effectively to get the patient back to 100%. It is a constant balancing act between the need to do the job properly and the customer's desire to have their vehicle back.
If your shop has gone out of their way to get your car repaired as quickly as possible, found an inexpensive fix, loaned you a car, or found a repair that was a huge safety issue ... be appreciative. Contrary to popular belief, Techs have feelings too! It's human nature to be extra nice to the folks you like. Be nice to your auto repair shop employees and they will go out of their way to give you A+ treatment.
Remember, most problems between shops and clients are a result of faulty communication. Try these top 8 ways to get great auto repair & service at your next visit!