The Customer Experience of Getting My Car Fixed

A few simple things would have made things much better.

I needed to get the driver’s-side side mirror fixed on my wife’s car. It had been bashed and wouldn’t stay in place. Since this is a safety issue, we wanted it fixed fast. Being new to the area, and far from our original dealer, I needed to find a Mazda dealer close by to get the job done. I found one and they even let me request an appointment online. Cool! Fine, I picked the wrong date for the appointment, but that wasn’t a problem.

But that snafu (my bad) was the last part of this experience that went well from a customer experience point of view.

Look, I just need an estimate.

The first problem was although I said I needed to come in for an estimate to get the mirror fixed, that didn’t make it to the notes. The service guy thought I was there for service. Nope, only and estimate. Nope, not an oil change. Nope, no service.

It was all the more confusing for the guy because my toddler was asleep in the car. After several minutes of trying to explain it, he finally got it. Nothing to do today. Only and estimate and come back later. Yes, I’d like the recall work done too, just not now.

Wait, why can’t you order all the parts?!?

I figured the dealer would need to order parts. It’s not like they’d keep a bunch of side mirrors in stock (in all the colors for all the models). To fix the problem they only need two parts. Cool. But…

But the mechanic said that sometimes these other two parts sometimes break when they are fixing it. Fine, order those too.

I can’t. My manager won’t let me. He doesn’t want to spend the money. If the parts break then they can be ordered. Not before, just in case.

Hmm.

I get you need to keep costs down. I understand it might be a hassle to return parts, but your supply chain issues aren’t my problem. Your job is to make me a happy customer and come back. This makes me think you value your convenience over mine.

Not good enough. Strike one.

The guy told me I could bring the car in first thing Monday morning. If they didn’t break anything in the repair, it should be only an hour. But if they need to order the extra parts, I’d have to leave the car with them, but they’d order the parts and finish that day.

At least that’s what I was told.

Overnight? You didn’t say overnight!

Drive to the dealer this morning, realizing that they didn’t call to confirm the parts arrived on Friday, which made me tad worried given the estimate experience. Hoping for the best I soldiered on.

Check in was efficient. Everything was good until the service guy (same guy who did the estimate) said that if they needed the extra parts I’d have to leave the car with them overnight.

Hold on. You said if I had to leave it with you it would be done that afternoon. I didn’t plan for a possible car sleepover.

The guy pointed out that he couldn’t get the part that fast and fix it. Sure that made sense, and I was wondering what kind of amazing network they had to get same-day parts, but you told me same day. I guess something got lost in translation.

This leaves me worrying and trying to figure out what I could do if I had to leave the car with them. Strike two.

In the end, the extra parts weren’t needed. The mirror is fixed and works (it did need a little finessing post-repair to be able to be adjusted smoothly).

And in the bonus points column, they dealt with one of the two recall problems while I was there and I didn’t have to ask for it. Cool.

But how could this have been better?

Here’s the customer focused way

First, the book an appointment form needs check boxes for “get an estimate” and “warranty/recall repairs”. Two check boxes and no confusion that I wasn’t there for service. They also need a “I’m a new customer” selection. While rare, this would have helped their own confusion why I wasn’t in their system.

Next is the parts ordering bit. Don’t give the customer a song and dance about needing parts or not. The mechanic says you need these two and might need these other two if something breaks (which happens). Order all the parts. You have the car, you’re doing the work, finish it.

I understand if you are fixing one thing and you find a whole new, unexpected problem that needs parts. Fine. Sucks, but reasonable. Making a customer worry about maybe having to leave their car because the manager doesn’t want to deal with parts inventory. Not good enough. That’s stressful. Don’t stress people out.

Because I didn’t have a great experience getting the estimate, I did worry the parts wouldn’t be there. They service department didn’t seem on the ball, so I wasn’t feeling confident things would be smooth today.

Bad customer experience cascades. Experiences set expectations. My expectation was these folks aren’t too with it. And up until the recall repair was done without me needing to ask and the service guy handled the wonky mirror adjusting well, I was pretty much set on not coming back there after the next recall repair is done.

Now I might come back. Maybe. The (now repaired) car’s lease is up soon and there is another dealer close by to compete for our business (we have two Mazdas).

See how it works?

Now it’s your turn

Think about how you do things. Are there “my manager won’t let me order the parts” processes? Do you leave things like finishing in the afternoon or leaving overnight up to interpretation? How do you welcome new customers? How do you identify new customers?

These are key customer focus/experience questions. Knowing the answers is essential to knowing if you are pissing customers a little at a time or building strong relationships. Every time you interact with a customer you have the chance to delight or dismay them. Delight them and customers stay. Dismay them and you’re setting the stage for them to leave.

That’s customer experience. That’s what it takes to be successful today.