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Business Operations / Sonny's-Carwash College™ Tip of the Month

How to Handle Damage Claims

CarWash College™ Tip of the Month

January 29, 2010

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From time to time damage claims will be made at your car wash. In order to handle damage claims, both real and imagined, there needs to be a standard, clear, and consistent way of assuring they are handled correctly.

Customer Interaction:

  • Remain calm. A shouting match with emotion involved solves nothing.
  • The customer is usually upset to some degree because he/she feels their car was damaged. And we all know how much people love their cars. Try to ease their emotional state by portraying empathy.
  • Treat the customer in this situation just like any other situation. Be friendly and accommodating. Be diplomatic and tactful when dealing with this often delicate situation.
  • Use the L.A.S.T. approach: Listen. Apologize. Solve. Thank.
    1. Listen carefully and don't interrupt. Wait for the customer to finish venting.
    2. Apologize, but don't admit fault. Empathize with their situation.
    3. Solve the problem. If it's the wash's fault, fix the problem. If it's not, let the customer know in no uncertain terms that you don't believe it happened here and although you'd be happy to provide him/her with a free wash, we can't do anything about the damage.
    4. Thank the customer for bringing it to your attention and invite them to return.

Customer's Account of Damage:

  • Listen carefully to the customer's description of damage.
  • Listen for clues that the car may have been involved in a prior incident to cause the damage.
  • Ask where they think the damage might have occurred.

Damage Assessment:

  • Inspect the damage carefully. Look for signs of prior damage.
  • Take pictures of the damage. These can be used for future reference to prove/disprove a claim and to share with other managers.

Surveillance System:

  • If you have a camera system, view the video for evidence of occurrence.
  • Use them to deter false claims.
  • Use them to disprove false claims.
  • Use them to prove legitimate claims.
  • Check the footage while the customer fills out the damage claim form when possible.

Taking Care of the Customer's Damaged Vehicle:

  • Develop a relationship with a local body shop.
  • Develop a relationship with a local parts dealer.
  • Set up a system of trading washes for discounts and services from local automotive vendors. Your cost on a wash is much less than 100% cost plus mark-up of parts and services.
  • Have a system set up to where all the manager has to do is hand the customer a business card of the body shop and apologize for the inconvenience. Taking care of your customer's damage quickly will increase the chances of that customer returning to use your wash again.
  • Be sure to provide great customer service when handling the customer's damage claim. Deal with the situation just like you would when answering questions about purchasing a wash package. Don't be afraid to comp a free wash for their inconvenience. Most customers that experienced damage claims don't return.
  • When it comes time, pay for the repair directly. Reimbursing the customer should only be done when absolutely necessary. Pay the vendor directly.

By implementing a standard system you can save the car wash thousands in false claims. And when you do damage a car, you will have a system in place that allows you take care of a customer, in such a way, that they become lifetime customers and fans.

Robert Andre is the President of CarWash College™. Robert can be reached at RAndre@carwashcollege.com. For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit www.carwashcollege.com or call the registrar's office at 1-866-492-7422.