How To Win/Lose a Customer for Life

I’ve had some trouble getting auto service lately. Let’s compare experiences and see who you’d rather go with:

My last visit to Tires Plus:
I sat in the waiting room for three hours while they changed my oil, didn’t bother to rotate my tires because they were so worn out (apparently from not being rotated often enough) and tried to sell me on $1,200 worth of repairs. When I finally asked if my car was done, they were surprised. The car had been done for a while. They called my house and when my wife told them I was sitting in their waiting room, they disagreed with her and said I stepped out. They never checked the waiting room, where I had been sitting for three hours.

Apparently they forgot about me and gave up. While paying the bill the sales guy made a big show of walking around the counter to shake my hand. I’ve never wanted to punch somebody so badly.

Today’s visit to Pace’s Service Center:
When I left Tires Plus I vowed never to go back. I asked around and decided on the little family-owned service shop that will still pump your gas for you: Pace’s Service Center in West St. Paul. I checked out their website and a friend vouched for them.

I went in this morning and sat in one of their three chairs in the “waiting room.” They had no wifi. No TV. No coffee. But they did have a steady stream of customers who seemed to know them by name. A couple people dropped cars off with vague problems and concerns they wanted checked out before they headed out of town. No problem. The guy who drove my car into the service bay was the owner. It was like stepping into a local garage from 50 years ago, complete with an old school “City Gide” map on the wall.

An hour later my car was ready and I was impressed. I shook hands with Jim, the service manager, after we chatted about a shared interest in web design.

“We want to earn one customer at a time,” Jim said, and I assured him that he had one more.

Then I walked out to my car. It seemed clean inside. Too clean. I looked back and the leafy bits from the “tree” Lexi insisted on taking into the car were gone. The window seemed extra clear and the mirrors were real shiny. I got out of the car and went back in.

“Did you guys vacuum my car?” I asked. Jim nodded. Vacuuming the interior and washing the windows is standard practice.

“You guys rock,” I said, shaking his hand one more time.

You can take a guess where I’ll be taking my car from now on.

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