Evaluating, and re-evaluating, your customers and their repairs

Aug. 30, 2011

Does this sound familiar? Within a few months after a purchase, a customer tells you, “Man, that cordless impact gun is phenomenal. On our trip north for snowmobiling we had a flat tire on the trailer and it just whipped those lug nuts off without a second thought. Love it!”

This is generally heard shortly after a purchase, when the customer is still very satisfied.

Now fast forward about a year, and the same customer is placing the tool on the counter and saying (gruffly), “This thing won’t even take off a tire—I am sick of it—it’s been like that since day one!” (Your head tilts sideways as you think to yourself, “Since day one?”)

I will bet 99.99 percent of you have had this happen with at least one customer. I know how rare it is to find a customer that is happy one minute and disgusted the next... Now, if you want Mr. X to be happy, you say “Let’s take a look at it for you; I want you happy with any purchase you make from me. But first I have a couple of questions.”

The repair side of our businesses can get interesting, to put it mildly. It is no secret there is more money that can be made from a new sale then repairing an older unit, but at the request of our customers we research parts or acquire overhaul quotes to assist them with refurbish desires. We are all indisputably in a service business—we all know that if we don’t take care of customer issues or concerns that someone else most certainly will!

Stop now and think about any shop that you service and try to recall how many times you have seen them repeatedly servicing their customers ... at no charge. Just like us, the shops we service are in the service industry, but you don’t see them taking apart vehicles just to see what’s wrong or what part they may need ... at no charge!

There is only so much time in the day that we have available for making money; you can bet that the profitable shops on our routes understand that. Ever listen to how they upsell with each vehicle? That’s just like us wanting to make as much per transaction as possible.

Helping customers with repairs has to be justifiable for both parties—is it the right move for the customer and is there a return for us on the time spent?

A starting point with any service issue is asking questions:

  • When did it first occur?
  • Did you check air supply or test it at a different hose in the shop?
  • Is the charger working properly?
  • How are the contact points in the body of the tools or battery?

There are a host of questions that need to be asked before we take action or offer warranty coverage, making sure that the issue is valid and not Mr. X trying to get something for nothing. Many times during the interview a simple problem is discovered and remedied quickly. If this tool has become the tech’s “right hand,” chances are it is used up (and in most cases warrants a new purchase), possibly sending the tired one out for rebuild as a backup.

If a customer brings a tool that I don’t carry/service, I always steer them to my product that I can help them with in the future—instead of spending valuable time chasing parts that don’t offer enough profit to cover my time. (And there’s always a chance that the part doesn’t fix the problem. Tick tock, tick tock as more chasing ensues.)

Service is what brings customers back if they perceive they have been treated fairly. Nowhere is it written that mobile tool distributors have to give free service for the sake of “service.”

With each tool that is in question, I always go to the customer’s history to find the purchase date so that we both have an accurate record for the tool (which often keeps the customer honest with the story). For Mr. X with the cordless tool that he claimed was only used a few times since he bought it a year and a half ago, it turned out to be 5-1/2 years after a quick stroll through his history! Upon bringing this handy piece of info to his attention, all problems that started out as “my” problem were removed and from there we discussed repair vs. new. Mr. X now has a new cordless gun and a new sense of accountability!

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