How to effectively deal with complaining customers

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Idea comes through an opportunity, opportunity comes through a pain point, and that's how Kar-Worx was started. We own a Mercedes Benz and I remember coming across an invoice for routine maintenance of the car. I thought it was quite high, and questioned my father about why repairs for luxury cars were expensive and if he would send his car outside of dealerships for repairs. He refused saying he didn't know of any credible service center that could be trusted with a Rs 50L+ car.


Soon I went back to Boston to complete my MBA, I realized car maintenance was not the same there as in India. It was more organized, simpler and there were tons of alternatives to dealerships for servicing mid and luxury brands. I then started working on a business plan and in the June of 2013 founded Kar-Worx and Spa in Mumbai; we recently launched our second location in Aurangabad.

Here we have enlisted a few types of customers that as a B2C (Business-to-Consumer) service provider we come across and how to effectively deal with them:

A. Customers looking for monetary benefit

These are the most difficult customers to deal with as they have a single focus in mind, monetary benefit. They can be rigid, irrational and they will not budge.The sole intention is to get maximum discount from the service provider.

How to deal with them

1. Educate: Start your communication with the customer by apologizing for any inconvenience. A suitable way of dealing with such customers is by educating them about the processes, parts used and work done on the car.

2. Communicate effectively: For instance, if the customer is explaining a separate issue in the list of services that was not discussed, the customer needs to be tackled in a way where he is assured that the concern is top priority and every step would be taken to diagnose and resolve the issue. Be absolutely clear in your communication incase the customer is liable towards any additional costs in getting that extra job done.

3. Build customer relations: The customer needs to be made comfortable in the customer loungeby offering himbeverages and may be hand in a catalogue of all the work done by you just to make sure he understands the caliber and quality of your service. Have your manager personally inspect the car in the presence of the customer to ensure he is fully satisfied with the service. This also helps with building customer relations.

B. The Know-it All Customers

These customers are the ones who do their research thoroughly before bringing their car in for service. With wide exposure to the Internet, these customers know what the issue with their car is, what part is faulty, how much does a dealership charge, etc.

How to deal with them

1. Own up, rectify your mistake: Sometimes there is a chance of human error at the technicians end due to which customer is irate. Such situations need to be prioritized; the customer should be apologized to.

2. Offer Value Added Services: If the solution to the problem is going to take some time then an additional convenience service needs to be bundled to the customer at no additional charge. This could be something as small as arranging a drop facility through the company driver for free to the customers place of choice locally, complementary interior cleaning, a discount coupon for their next service and so on.

3. Be Transparent: Some customers read something online without understanding the technicality of it. For instance, if we replace a brake pad and it is making noise, chances are it is due to the part being brand new and the car needs to be driven for a few kms or in some cases due to water seepage at the time of car wash. The customer will first doubt the genuinity of the part. Show the customer their old part vs the new one. Explain to them that if the problem persists you would replace that part without charging anything extra.

C. Customers who are always pressed for time

These customers are quite difficult to handle as the underlying issue can result in poor quality of job. This most often results in delay of job completion or repeat job.

How to deal with them

1. Calm the customer: Such customers need to be handled technically by explaining the time required for each job to be done.

2. Include buffer time: It is extremely important to assume a buffer time period in case small issues such as wrong parts received, some issues with opening the parts due to technical failures, or if some minor concerns need to be addressedto post parts fitment.

3. Realistic Goal Setting: Keeping the customer informed regularly helps the customer plan his schedule and make necessary arrangements. The above process is based on initial goal setting for the customer and to ensure customer delight, always under commit and over perform.

4. Automate: At Kar-Worx, we recently developed a GMS (Garage Management Software) to ensure smooth functioning of operations across all locations. The software will also give the customer his personal dashboard, just like any social media account, where he/she will get a unique code generated at the time of checking in their car.

Once the process starts, the customer gets auto-notifications through the software informing them about what stage is their car is in. From Job card creation, online estimate approval, approximate time for delivery, work-in-progress status of their car, invoicing and feedback, everything will be automated through the software. The customer without waiting or calling the workshop will get an exact update of their car anytime and anywhere.

D. Customers that want something ‘extra’

These customers don't have monetary or time issues but they need to be given the ‘special treatment’ in order to satisfy them. They want something more than what the other customers get, whereas if satisfied they become ‘PROMOTERS’ for the company.

How to deal with them

1. Bespoke service experience: These customers need personalized service. All the way from greeting the customer with their name, to making them feel they are top most priority; these customers need to be given extra attention throughout the service process.

2. After Sales Relations: Once the customer has availed your service, it is imperative that you follow up with a personal feedback call to understand your scope for improvement. Also, this is a great way to build lasting business associations and getting more referrals.

3. Pass on the Benefits: Always share any additional information or service that may enhance his overall experience. Most of them are insensitive to price and will not hesitate to pay a little extra. Additionally, keep them informed about any new car update, industry news relevant to them, helping them with getting good deals on pre-owned cars or selling their used car, help them with their insurance needs, etc.

4. Make them a part of your business story: Inviting them to new workshop launches and events, sharing your success story or even gifting them a small souvenir on special occasions goes a long way in retaining.

I always believe that personalized customer service forms the crux of any business, especially if you have a business that is customer facing. The key is to listen to your customer and keep your communication solution oriented. A happy customer will get you more sales than every dime spent on marketing!