By: Patrick Gratzianna
Many towing businesses regard a customer complaint as a negative experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By taking a moment to listen to the complaint you may actually identify weaknesses in your business that you may not have seen earlier. If you ignore the problem, a typical dissatisfied customer will share their bad experience with nine to 15 people and possibly more if they post a negative review online. Customer service is everyone’s responsibility – from the dispatcher to the towing operator to the owner. Here are some ideas to consider the next time you’re face-to-face with a crazed, out-of-control customer.
Round One – The Dispatcher
When taking the initial tow information from a customer, be open and truthful about how long it’s going to take to get them a truck. Telling them 20 minutes when you know it’s going to be at least an hour is unfair to them and equally unfair to your towing operator, who will face their wrath when they arrive. If you are going to miss an ETA, the first step is to call the customer back and let them know. A little communication goes a long way. They won’t like the bad news, but will generally understand and will most likely appreciate your honesty.
Round Two- The Towing Operator
When you pull up on scene and the customer is tapping his foot and looking at his watch, now is your time to set up and act like a professional. As referenced in the Towing and Recovery Association of America’s (TRAA) National Driver Certification Program, there are a few right ways a towing operator can handle an angry customer including:
- Listen without interruption. Let the customer vent and allow them to get it all out. They are not specifically mad at you, but frustrated with their situation.
- Don’t get defensive. Remember, you didn’t cause the problem, but you have the power to solve it. Rather than shifting the blame, provide solutions.
- Express empathy. Smile and listen carefully. Apologize even if you did nothing wrong. Apologizing for their inconvenience lets them know you care about them and understand and respect their feelings. Most irate customers simply wants someone to acknowledge their plight and to sympathize with them.
- Ask questions to understand the problem. This allows you to sift through the emotions while getting to the root of the problem.
- Find out what they want. This is where you simply ask what they want and how you can help. A simple gesture of kindness goes a long way.
- Explain what you can and cannot do. This is your opportunity to be their hero, but don’t over-promise anything you can’t deliver. Offer options. Can you drop them off at their home or work (if able) as you tow their disabled car to the shop? Can you help arrange an Uber or Lyft so they make their appointment?
- Take action. Move with a sense of purpose and work quickly but safely. Don’t waste their time any longer than necessary. When unloading, keep them in a safe place and value their time.Follow up to ensure their satisfaction. As you complete the tow, ask if there is anything else you can do to help. Make sure you met their needs.
Round Three – The Manager or Owner
If you have the power to solve a complaint on the road, do it. If not, agree to investigate the situation and follow up with the customer afterwards. Keep your promise. Resolving a problem makes your customer feel important and that feeling can create a customer for life. Keep in mind, it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
Repeat business is key for any successful towing company. Your customer will form an impression of your business based on how well you dealt with them and their problem. Complaints aren’t always bad, and for every complaint there are approximately 26 other unhappy customers who remained silent. Take it for what it is; a complaint is an opportunity to improve your service.