Control Your Comebacks

stan ribeiro newsletterOK, I know it’s a sore subject, but let’s face it; we all have to deal with comebacks. The longer we pretend they don’t exist the harder it is going to be to retain our customers.

First, let us define what a comeback is. I have always believed a comeback was a customer’s necessity to return to your facility for any reason they believe unnecessary. In others words an unnecessary necessity.  This can be grease left on a door panel, the service engine soon light on after a repair, brake squeak after a brake job, a tire pressure light on after an oil and rotate. Worse, the dreaded “My car is doing the same thing” or “ever since”.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to hear the “ever since” phrase. As a matter of fact it’s right up there with “my mechanic”, but that will be my next article.

I have found that the easiest thing to do is to deny it was your fault, the advisors fault or even the technicians fault. Technicians will sometimes come up with “I didn’t touch that “or “that’s unrelated”. Who cares what we think, it’s all about what your customer thinks.  If a customer has to come back no matter what the circumstance, it’s our fault. Perception is reality.

Explain the complexity of the circumstance and admit when you could have performed differently. It’s never a bad thing to step up and take care of a situation. Everyone is a hero when things go well; it’s how well you’re treated when something goes wrong that counts.

Usually when the manager gets involved with a comeback it’s already too late. I always had the philosophy if it gets to me, it’s free. Coach and counsel your advisors to take responsibility and allow them the opportunity to make things right. Give them guidance on how you feel about your customers, and help them make decisions.  Along with your empowerment structure, let the advisor fix the problem and instill confidence back in the customer’s mind. Of course the key words are “your empowerment structure”, train them to not give the store away.

Do most of your comebacks happen due to improper diagnostics? Is it carelessness or lack of training? Perhaps your dispatching logic needs to be examined. Whatever the case, getting it done is what matters most of all.

How, you ask? You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Create a simple log and require the advisors to enter critical information about the repair to help evaluate the root cause of the comeback. Hopefully this will be a short list, however, if you have never tracked this information before, it may take a while to get it to that. Key entries would be the original service performed and subsequent issue, the technician who worked on the vehicle, the advisor, and the time in-between the original service and the latest concern. The customer is always right….most of the time! If you feel that the time line is greater than the realm of probability, your department created the unnecessary necessity; explain and offer assistance. Most of all, offer a solution that is in both, both yours and your customer’s best interest. Track and look for trends and technician’s ability or inability to diagnose and repair customer concerns.

Sometimes it is better to build on abilities first.  Enhance productivity then work on any inabilities. Don’t be afraid to interview your employees on a regular basis.  Get to know what they are good at and what they prefer to work onthen dispatch accordingly.

This is a big undertaking, and will take a lot of effort. You and your department will benefit by retaining your customers and building long term internal relationships with your staff.
There are so many processes that need to be in place that make a service department successful. Controlling comebacks is one that can have positive effects on many other aspects of your operation. These processes need to become second nature.

Remember there are two very important things you must have to succeed; customers and technicians.

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