Setting the Right Expectations

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Rob Ingram owns and operates Eldon Ingram NAPA Auto Pro in Stratford, Ont. You can reach him at [email protected]. Photo Jack Kazmierski

Following proper systems and procedures is key to ensuring transparent and long-term relationships with your customers. 

As Spring approaches and many of us get into tire changeover season, with more vehicles coming into our service bays, it can be tempting to overlook proper processes and procedures to get more cars in and more R/Os completed. 

And when that happens, our business can suffer from all kinds of unintended consequences. Let’s use an example of a customer that was told their vehicle needed brake work. The shop is very busy, and the service advisor asks the customer what the vehicle needs and they are told brakes. No further questions are asked, the vehicle is brought into the bay and the work is performed. 

Nasty shock

The customer is told their vehicle is ready and when they come to collect their vehicle, they get a nasty shock at the repair bill, because the car needed a lot more than just pads and rotors. The result is often friction (sorry, pun intended) and dissatisfaction from the customer because they felt they were taken advantage of. The shop gets the blame, and this results in lost revenue from a dissatisfied customer who also tells everybody else they know not to take the vehicle to your shop because “you ripped them off.”

Yet this kind of situation can easily be avoided if proper systems and procedures were followed, to begin with. Especially in today’s environment where inflation and interest rates are eating into consumers’ household budgets, it is extremely important you do everything you can to make sure they are in control of their money. Using our brake service as an example, when a customer says their vehicle needs brakes, the service advisor needs to ask them to come to the shop and give them a price upfront of what it will cost to change pads, rotors and/or shoes. 

Additional work

At that point, the advisor will also need to inform the customer that the vehicle might need additional brake service/maintenance such as replacing callipers or hoses and if it does, the price for the work will significantly increase. The advisor also needs to make sure they can contact the customer if the technician discovers the vehicle needs additional repairs. The advisor also needs to explain to the customer why this work is needed and how long it will take to repair the vehicle. 

By doing so you’ve clearly explained to the customer exactly what their vehicle needs, how much it is likely to cost and when the vehicle will be ready. The expectation was set right at the very beginning, minimizing the risk of dissatisfaction and friction when it comes time for the customer to pay their bill and collect the vehicle. By educating and informing your customers, you have created a channel of communication that is open and transparent, firmly putting them in control of the decision-making process and with it, control over their money.

Good systems and procedures

That’s why, especially today, it is imperative you have good systems and procedures in place. In our shop, this includes digital inspections for every vehicle that comes in, because it allows us to show the customer quickly and efficiently, what is needed and the value of getting the work done. 

This becomes even more important in an era where more consumers are trying to make their money go further, which means holding onto their existing vehicles longer. And in that kind of scenario, where their vehicle will need more maintenance and repairs because they are holding into it for longer, wouldn’t you rather they come to you for their car care needs than go somewhere else? 



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