How to use the web to baffle your customers

The internet. As social animals we’ve embraced it fully, merrily twittering, blogging and facebooking away. But has the aftermarket really got it?

My recent experience with a bodyshop, which I won’t embarrass by identifying, tells me not.

Sorry guys, but you know the truth is that the circumstances that bring motorists to your door do not predispose us to enjoying doing business with you.

GENE HUNT

The particular circumstances that brought me to the door of this particular bodyshop were thrust upon me courtesy of the maniac driver (I use the word loosely) who ran me off the road at a speed of what must have been close to 60mph in a 30mph zone.

After cutting me up, he then proceeded to veer back across both lanes of the dual carriageway, bounce across the central reservation and screech to a halt facing the oncoming traffic – nice work, if you’re DCI Gene Hunt in Life on Mars.

Not so nice when you’re minding your own business and already running late to catch your plane to Italy for the Autopromotec show – made it, just!

Thankfully no one was hurt, although I had to use all my reserves of restraint as he shrugged his shoulders, got nonchalantly back in his car and drove off!

Despite him bumping conspicuously along on a badly buckled wheel, the police didn’t manage to bring him in. But that’s a whole other saga best saved for when I’m feeling calmer.

ONLINE REPAIR TRACKING

But I digress. Back to the bodyshop.

Having written countless words in the past about the good sense in garages getting online and making the consumer experience as pain-free as possible, I was delighted to find that this workshop had done just that.

Its “exciting new service” – and I have to admit, not getting out much these days that I was pretty excited – allows you to track your vehicle’s repair online!

Fantastic, I thought, no more waiting around for someone to answer the phone and dig out my vehicle’s details to update me.

It didn’t quite work like that. The first time I logged on, I was greeted with words to the effect: “There’s a possibility that your car could be a write-off”. That was it. Nothing else. No explanation or reassurance.

And it was a Sunday, so speaking to an actual, live, human being was out.

On Monday I tried again, and this time the status had changed. It seemed the car wasn’t a write-off after all and – great news – the repair was now 30 percent complete!

On Tuesday it was 50 percent done and by Wednesday it had reached the staggering readiness of 70 percent!

NO NEWS IS NOT GOOD NEWS

But what did it all mean? Who knows, certainly not me – it took another week before the car was back on the road.

And it seems that the customer service team was rather too excited about the effectiveness of the system because no one was answering the phone either.

The whole experience left me feeling even angrier than when my car was trashed in the first place.

What made it more frustrating was that this was a bodyshop clearly trying to do the right thing but at the last minute seemingly getting carried away with the technology and forgetting about the most important thing – the customer.

The web is a wonderful thing when it’s used properly and a vehicle tracking system is, in theory, the best thing you can do for your customer short of telling them you’ve fixed their motor for free.

But you’ve got to give them information that actually means something. And sometimes, a conversation with someone who knows what they’re talking about is the only thing that will do.

This post was written by:

- who has written 256 posts on CAT Magazine.

Emma has been CAT's editor since January 2008. There isn't much she doesn't know about the aftermarket - and her favourite topic is definitely BER!

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