Caring for the Customer

We all witness customer care crimes on a regular basis. The act of making someone who is giving you money for a product or service happy to do so is an art that seems to be fading. In the worst economy in a generation, it would seem obvious that an enterprise would put customer satisfaction and retention at the top of its priority list. That’s often not the case. But a consumer can manage his relationship with a company by being polite and proactive, and a savvy manager would be wise to listen.

My check engine light came on the other day. I know my Tacoma pretty well, and I deduced it was a faulty sensor, a part of the exhaust system. I took the truck to my local Toyota dealer and told them to take a look. 150 dollars later, they confirmed my diagnosis.

Parts and labor to make the repair? 500 dollars. I bristle; that doesn’t sound right. I declined their offer to make the repair and head home. I asked the Internet for guidance. I can get the part I need for under 90 dollars, and install it myself in about 30 minutes.

No customer care crime has been committed, yet. The price they charge for my convenience (not having to crawl under and make the fix myself) is not illegal, but for me it’s simply too high. Many would accept that price and write the check, but I have chosen to sacrifice convenience for cost.

I crawled under my truck  to take a look and make sure this is a job I can handle. I notice that the part has been disconnected from the wiring underneath.

Did the mechanic make a simple mistake, forgetting to reconnect the sensor? Or did he leave it disconnected on purpose? If I drove with that sensor disabled, it would eventually wreck my catalytic converter, and I’d be looking at a 4-digit repair bill.

A cloud of doubt has now been created. I am not a big fan of this service department to begin with- they love to upsell me. An oil change is never just an oil change at this place; it’s always something…else. Now I am wondering if I should ever go back there again.

I called the service advisor and told him what I discovered. He told me the mechanic had left for the day, but he would ask him in the morning and call me back with an explanation.

It’s 9:23 am as I write this. The dealership has been open since 7am, and my phone isn’t ringing.

I have a couple of options here; I can flame them on Yelp, post a nasty status update on Facebook and G+ and stew all day, or I can be proactive and polite.

I’m going to call the dealership and tell them I’m on my way over, and a manager should be ready to see me.

I’m going to shake his hand, and calmly and politely explain to him what happened. I’ll then tell him that because the part was (accidentally or not) disconnected, I’m wondering if I can trust them to do future service on my truck.

Remember the bill for the diagnosis was 150 bucks. That was their price, and it’s not reasonable for me to ask for a refund.I’m  instead going to ask them to do me a small favor. There’s another little part inside the cab of my truck that needs to be reattached to the dashboard. It involves two screws and about 10 minutes of work. I’m going to ask them to make that little fix, right now, and I’m going to stand here and wait. Then I’m going to say “Thank you for doing that for me”, and then I’ll promise to come back next time I need an oil change. I’m offering to continue my relationship with them, on a case-by-case basis.

If the service manager is savvy, he’ll accept my proposal. If he tries to argue with me, he will have lost not only future revenue from me, but he also risks a nasty status update on Facebook!

I don’t know if I need to replace that sensor- I’ll find out in the next day or two, and if it is indeed faulty, I will make the repair in my garage and be done with it. But I think I am doing the right thing by negotiating with the dealership, and acting like an adult about it. If they care about my business, they’ll step up. If they do the wrong thing, I’ll punish them with my wallet- I’ll be gone.

Most customer complaints can be managed, and settled quickly, if you listen to your customer. If they are being reasonable, mature and polite, it’s in your best interest to fix the problem, and save the relationship.

You as consumer have some say in this. Give them a chance to make it right.









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