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Search any carwash or detail shop-themed bulletin board and you’re bound to notice one of its most common themes: Customer complaints and damage claims. From the comical to the serious, these grievances run the gamut and test not only the operator’s patience, but also his wallet.
One might argue that focusing on your customer service policy is the best offense to these situations, but here at Professional Carwashing & Detailing we know that no offense is complete without a great defense.
That’s why we polled several leading operators to develop this four-step master plan for nipping complaints and damage claims in the bud, before they blossom into lawsuits.
1. Take them aside and listen.
Don’t focus on how you can turn their argument against them; instead work on empathizing with their point of view. Imagine yourself as the customer, not as the defensive business owner. Be conscious of your body language, as well. Standing with arms crossed or with too much distance between yourself and the customer will send a signal that you’re not interested in what he has to say.
If there is an employee actively involved in the complaint, carefully consider this person’s temperament before bringing him/her into the conversation. You can always learn their “side” of the story later, but you won’t be able to stop a shouting match that erupts as tempers flare.
2. Show them that you understand.
Do not simply repeat what the customer has said back to you. Instead, indicate that you understand her frustration and apologize for the situation. The operators we talked with stressed that you should not admit fault, but instead express your regret that they are having this issue and your intention for them to leave happy and satisfied.
Just as body language was very important in the first step, now tone is crucial in the second. Don’t raise your voice, even if the customer tries to talk over you, and be very careful to avoid sarcasm. This can be difficult with an outrageous claim or with a repeat offender. Remind yourself that unhappy customers (no matter how much you don’t want them at your wash) will spread their version of the story to customers you just might want to keep.
3. Determine the possible solutions.
It’s a good idea at this point to have the customer complete a standardized complaint or damage claim form. This can aid you in questioning, and if you happen to be off-site, it will help ensure your employees follow the same steps you would go through.Some important items to note on the form:
4. Take action.
If you don’t feel that you’ve caused the damage or that the complaint is warranted, offer some free services or upgrades. Show the customer that you’re committed to keeping them as a customer, but be careful not to oversell your innocence. Instead, focus on the loyalty they have given you by being a customer in the past, and you’re hope that they will continue to be a client. Apologize for the unfortunate circumstances, and move on.