Customers come in a wide range of styles. There are my regular customers, occasional customers, price shoppers,referrals, and friends of the family. Some don’t bother to tell me how they happened to be at the shop; maybe they’ve read an advertisement, saw a billboard somewhere, or they’ve checked out one of those websites that evaluate businesses by way of customer responses. Perhaps they’ve heard of the shop through the grapevine, or they might have just driven by to check it out. But I’ve never heard of anyone refer to themselves as a “dealer customer.”
It could be there are some differences between what people think of the various different types of repair shops, or what they are used to dealing with. Whatever the case may be, once they are at your front counter you want to try and make them a customer of your own.
Then again, do you really want to take on every job that comes in the door? I certainly don’t. There’s times someone will bring in something that I’m not qualified to work on, or it’s something that is so far gone it can’t be taken care of without an exorbitant amount of cash to repair it. Then there are those proverbial “basket cases”, oh yeah... actual “basket cases” dragged in to the service bays. (And “YES” they do come in baskets, crates, and/or boxes. All the nuts, bolts, electrical parts, and components scattered in hap-hazard piles of the owner’s greatest intentions gone wrong.)
Of course, there are the strange or unusual customer responses that keep you on your toes. I sometimes stand behind the counter wondering what in the world these people are thinking... how am I going to get through the usual monologue in the front office and still have enough sanity left to repair the car? Some of these requests and explanations are just too bizarre to be real.
“Hi, I’m here because of my brother-in-law sent me,” (I’m thinking to myself... alright! this is a good start), he said you could fix my car,” the new arrival to the shop tells me.
“What seems to be the problem?” I’ll ask.
“He changed the “autovalve” and he said you would know what to do about it.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what an “autovalve” is. (So much for a good start...) Could you describe what’s wrong with the car, and then maybe I can sort out what part you’re actually talking about.”
“Apparently you’re not as good as my brother-in-law said you were. You should know what one is. Obviously you don’t know how to fix my car then... I’m taking it to the dealer,” the now aggravated customer tells me, “Oh, and don’t worry I’ll tell my brother-in-law about this.”
You know, there are times I don’t want to even ask another question, or want to take the time to get to the bottom of some of these wacky explanations. I’d rather see this kind of problem just vanish with the goofy owner and their explanations. If they think they need something done to their autovalve I’m more than happy to let the dealer take care of it. Off you go to the dealer little lady... they’ll love to talk to you, and I’m sure they have plenty of autovalves over there.
At times, I pity the poor service writers at the dealerships. Because as it seems to be in these cases, the dealership is primarily the last stop in this long line of relatives with wrenches, repair facilities, and parts store geniuses trying to help out the customer. The service writer really doesn’t have much choice but to deal with them. Let’s face it...... they are the “deal-ership”
The phone rings again, the caller tells me, “Well, I don’t know if you can do this kind of work or not. I probably ought to just take it to the dealership.”
“What seems to be the problem, sir?”
“It’s my electric window, I think it’s the switch because my window is stuck halfway down. Probably bent a bracket you know.” (Self-inflicted-diagnostics … I can tell...)
“Sir, any decent independent shop can handle anything the dealerships can do. A window problem is no big deal. I take it you were referred here?”
“Yes, a couple of my friends told me about you.”
(Apparently, his friends neglected to tell him that we actually make the repairs too. I suppose he thinks his neighbors just come by the shop and chat about car repair.)
I find it rather confusing when a customer calls and tells me their car is at the dealership. They’ll tell me that the problem has already been diagnosed, and then tell me that all their friends recommended that they take their car to my shop for repair... but, instead they are sitting in a service bay at the dealership. After the usual phone introductions they’ll soon get to the real reason for their phone call:
“They want $947.53 cents to fix my car... do you think that’s too high?”
I guess at this point, I’m supposed to justify the cost or give them some outrageously lower price. I really don’t know how I can do that, when I haven’t even seen the car yet, or even what problems they’re having with it!
“You’re there already ma’am. If they have done their job correctly, and diagnosed the car properly then the price is their price.”
“They want a diagnostic charge if I take it out of their shop right now.”
“Ma’am, you’ll pay another diagnostic charge at the next shop, so I would advise you… since you’re there... let them take care of the problem as they see fit. Unless you feel uncomfortable with their results or diagnosis, I would suggest you let them take care of it.”
“I didn’t know where else to take it... but when I talked to my neighbors they told me about your shop,” the caller said.
How about asking around first? You might even learn a little something about your neighbors; hey they’re probably quite friendly; maybe you’ll actually learn all of their kid’s names, too.
So what’s the problem between the independent and dealer repair shops? It could be from previous dealings in the past, and the customer didn’t like the results. It could be size of the shop or the location... the real reasons are hard to pin down. I’m not knocking the quality of work performed at a dealer repair shop, no... quite the opposite. I would say I’ve also seen an increase in the quality of the independent shops in my area as well. There’s fewer wrench slinging grease monkeys out there than in years past. It really takes a different type of “mechanic” than it did even ten or twenty years ago, and that’s not just for the independent shops... that goes for the dealer technicians as well.
Locate a shop you like, find a technician who you feel comfortable with. If your search ends up with that individual at an independent shop… that’s fantastic! If you can’t find the service you’re happy with anywhere except at the dealership… well then, there’s only one thing to do… take it to the dealer.