In Lab - Archive

Handling customers at the workshop

by Cesare Soresina

In the previous issue we talked about how to handle customers on the phone. Its importance is repeated briefly here.
The more you know how to handle customers on the phone and the better you become at doing it, when the customer comes, there will be less work to do and it will be faster. With telephone management you know what is requested, what is to be done, it helps you to prepare for the visit and shows that you are ready, fast and professional.
So it is important to know “how to use” the phone.
There are two types of customer, those who have called and made an appointment and those who arrive without an appointment, because this is what they’ve been accustomed to and they come if and when they feel like it.
Let’s look at the first case.
If the customer has made an appointment and there is more than one booked, there are things that must be done the previous evening.
• Use a blackboard, or something similar, and write on it who is coming, vehicle model and registration number. In this way, you will recognize the customer by name, organize the work as a function of anyone who has not booked, avoid complaints from anyone who has to wait because they arrived early or late, and complaints from anyone who did not make an appointment;
• Prepare the tyres that have been chosen, or those of the customer who wants to change from winter to summer tyres or vice-versa. For each customer, have the preliminary tyre inspection/control chart ready with the name of the customer, the vehicle model and registration number.
When the customer arrives you will be ready, the tyres will be available and the prepared chart will be on the clipboard.
You must welcome them. If you already know them, the greetings will come easily and spontaneously, if you don’t know them, or can’t remember who they are, you must greet them, offer them your hand or arm (if your hands are dirty), use their name as it appears on the chart and verify the correctness of the request made by phone.
This and small details make all the difference!
If the vehicle is not already in the workshop, the second thing to do is to cover the seat, floor mat, steering wheel and knob, get into the vehicle and drive it onto the lift. It is essential to remember that:
• Put the covers on before  you get into the car.
• Never let the customer drive the vehicle onto the lift.
The third thing to do is to carry out a preliminary check of the tyres with the customer, preferably with a depth gauge in your pocket. Checking, explaining and showing the state of wear, regardless of the work that is to be done, is a sign of professionalism. Especially if you also check the spare wheel or compact tyre.
The preliminary check also allows you to inspect the vehicle so that later you can suggest doing work also on the body (smart repair), underbody (always keep a torch in your pocket), or any other services the company provides. This is why, in addition to the customer’s data, the chart should also have the current mileage, the average annual distance travelled, and the date of registration. If the customer is new, some other data can be added to the database, such as the other cars in the family, preferred brand of tyres, and so on.
Once you have been round the vehicle and have collected the necessary data, write down all the things that are wrong so that later you can suggest doing work on them. The chart is also used as an estimate and job order. It should have three carbon copies to avoid making photocopies.
The fourth thing to do is to prepare the estimate of what the customer requested (this will have been written down at time of the phone call), additional suggestions and what he/she would like to add. This is the sales and price negotiation part. The only advice I would give here is to remember that  performance must also be paid for.
When you have decided and agreed on what has to be done, the chart must be signed by the customer. And don’t forget the privacy law!
The fifth and last thing to be done is to give a copy to the customer, send a copy to administration and put the third copy on the car windscreen so that your technician will  have a written list of what is to be done.
Customers who want to wait should be accompanied to the waiting room. For customers who decide to leave, your offer of transport is very important. You must decide which customers should be offered a vehicle, ticket for public transport, or a lift to their destination. Exceptions apart, mobility must be offered only to customers who have made an appointment.
I won’t go into the documents to be signed for a replacement vehicle and the relevant payment, or the checks to be made when it is returned.
In the case of customers who come without an appointment, you won’t have anything prepared so you start with the welcome. Whether you know them or not, you must go through the stages described previously. Frequently, you will only get as far as the estimate, without any decision from the customer. In these circumstances, you keep the estimate on file and if you haven’t heard from him/her within a week at the most, you can call to find out what decision has been made.
The last important thing of this stage: contact the customers who have left their summer or winter tyres with you so that they can make an appointment in good time and before unexpected changes in the weather. At this point, only a serious database and constant telephone, email or sms activity will avoid peaks, when usually some jobs are lost and regular or potential customers will be dissatisfied.
In the next issue I will talk about the methods for handing back the car.

back to archive