The following is based on upon a real-life customer service call center report.
Scenario – Your call center reports a customer was very unhappy with their service experience at your dealership. The crux of the issue is the customer was lead to believe that his motorcycle needed about $200 worth of repairs, and the service would take about one day. Ultimately, the repair took three days and the final bill was more than $1,200. The customer was shocked at the significant increase in cost and time, but felt he had no choice when he approved the additional repairs in advance. No one outside of the service department would know about the unhappy customer except for the call center report.
What now? – How far should you go to make a customer happy? Nothing unfair happened to this customer. The work that was performed was necessary, and the total bill was reasonable given the scope of service and parts involved. The problem is one of setting expectations. Clearly, the service manager unintentionally underestimated what was required to get this motorcycle back on the road. The majority of customers will be reasonable under circumstances like these. A general manager or owner should take the time to call this customer and apologize for setting the wrong expectation up front. Take the time to understand thoroughly what happened so that you can speak knowledgably about the circumstances. Give the customer time to vent their frustration. Do what it takes to make the customer happy.
Lesson larned – More often than not, just the simple act of reaching out to a customer in a situation like this is all that’s necessary to put the matter behind you. If you choose to ignore it, you will likely lose the customer forever. To make matters worse, the customer may spoil your reputation with other potential customers. Do what is necessary to protect your reputation.
I've found it best to contact a customer for approval when the actual billing exceeds 10% over the extimate. These are tough times, and we have to be fully considerate of that fact.
It would also be an opportunity to sell a priority service plan so that future repairs and maintenance are budgeted for, with no surprises - offering a small intro to that plan would also be a good gesture