Yes. It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?
I have been out of the loop for a while. I needed some well-earned downtime not stressing about the next blog post, plus the day-to-day has been mad busy, working for the likes of LinkedIn Learning, Autodesk, and numerous other companies and organisations.
I realised that I needed to switch off each day at a sensible time. Working for yourself has many benefits. Burning the candle at both ends is NOT one of them, and I was guilty of EXACTLY that. Changes needed to be made, so I am now being much more organised, and using my time sensibly.
My whole company offering is based on providing services. I don’t make anything. I don’t sell boxes of ‘stuff’. I AM the business, and my knowledge and expertise are the boxes of ‘stuff’ I offer, and when I am burnt out, that offering suffers.
I want to make sure that customer service is king, so I am learning to regulate my working hours, to maintain my levels of service. I want to develop an ethos of quality, not quantity.
Being somewhat set in my ways, at nearly 55 years old, it has been an interesting learning curve. I have always worked hard and worked long hours. I am now realising that to be at my best, downtime IS needed. Hence, I haven’t been here for a while.
As you all know, the blog is called Not Just CAD!, and today is a blog about something I hold dear. Not CAD, but customer service. I have had a few projects recently where I have had issues on both sides; involving the client and me, where the service levels might not have been at their best. This has been for way too many reasons that I won’t bore you with, but I realised that I needed to become better after an email conversation with one of my clients (who is also a close friend). I needed to up my game, and offer higher quality, not base everything I do on quantity. It’s not about how MANY projects I am working on, but how I deliver quality on the projects I have in hand.
It is at this point that I am going to tell you a story about a recent experience I have had with customer service. It resonated with me on so many levels, and I hope you can see my point when you get to the end of the blog.
As some of you already know, I am a bit of a petrolhead, and I have just taken on a new electric vehicle (EV). A BMW i4 M50 to be exact. It has taken nine months to arrive, and I was incredibly excited when it arrived on June 15th. It was a whole other way of driving for one, but it also meant I was (hopefully) doing my bit towards being environmentally conscious. You could now say that I am an electric-head, perhaps? LOL.
Upon delivery, I was incredibly happy with the whole process. The customer service from our leasing company was second to none. The car looked rather lovely in the new carport where the home charger had been installed.
I always get any new vehicle ceramic coated. This involves a sealant being added to your car’s body panels and glass which prevents paint chips and allows dirt and debris (especially flies and bird poop) to be easily removed. Car paint is much thinner on newer vehicles, and this paint chips, damages, and discolours much more easily. Our cars are leased, so a ceramic coat is a good investment to prevent lease company fees later.
I am a big believer in going local when it comes to services and business. I try to find local tradespeople to work with, so I looked for a local vehicle detailer who could do the job. I contacted one who will remain nameless. You will understand why as you read through the blog. I found a detailer who (allegedly) has a superb reputation for working on prestige vehicle brands such as Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. He came out to do a final clean and valet on my Honda Civic Type R before it went back to the lease company. The Honda driver who collected the Type R said it was the cleanest car he has ever collected, so the detailer got brownie points. I booked the detailer for the 16th of June, the day after the new BMW was delivered, to ceramic coat my new EV.
At this point, you need to bear in mind that I LOVE my cars. I detail and valet them to a level that a professional company would. I expect any detailer I employ to have that same ethos, and when working on a prestige car, I would hope that they would maintain a level of professionalism throughout. I thought that the local detailer I used had that professionalism.
How wrong I was.
The previous image showed the new BMW in the carport on the day it was delivered. Note the new front grille. Shiny and new. Looking good, right?
Look at the image below. This is where it all went horribly wrong.
The detailer had not only sprayed something onto the plastic on the grille that had burnt on, giving that lovely ‘mildew’ effect, but he had also pushed the front traffic camera INTO the grille (circled) when trying to polish his error out of the plastic using an electric buffing tool.
I was so infuriated at this point; I was nearly in tears. I had had the car for ONE day in pristine condition. And when the detailer pointed at the camera and said, “Should it look like that?”, I just knew that things were only going to get worse.
The detailer then tried to get out of being liable for the damage. Excuses were bandied about such as it was the first EV he had worked on, and that being an EV, BMW must have put something different on the grille that reacted with his cleaning products. At this point, he was halfway through the ceramic coat, and I had to let him finish to make sure that I had a full coat on the car, otherwise, I would not know where he had and had not coated the vehicle.
I had to make a claim through my insurance company. I won’t bore you with the details, but again, the service levels were dire. I won’t mention their name for legal reasons (libel and such) but suffice it to say that, at this point, I was at the end of my tether with the lack of customer service I was getting to get my car repaired.
The detailer took TWO weeks to send me his insurance details so that I could counter-claim and he also demanded he be paid. I held back 50%. There was no way he was getting the full amount for the damage he had done to my new car. On top of that, I had seen how he was trying to get out of the liability for the damage.
CUSTOMER SERVICE – 001
This is my first point of customer service. If you make a mistake, admit to it. Be honest. It builds trust and allows you and the client to move forward, building structure on a project to make it stronger and more resilient.
Here is where it gets even darker when it comes to service levels. The detailer applied a specific ceramic coat, provided by a coating company I know well. My previous detailer (when we lived in Norfolk) used the same coating, and I knew the brand well. The coating, once complete, should last for around three years, and you should get a sticker to put in your car with a QR code, so that if the coating fails, you can contact the coating supplier, and they will make sure the detailer redoes the coating at the detailers expense. I was told by the detailer that he had run out of stickers. It didn’t cross my mind at the time, but it transpired that he was not an approved detailer to use the ceramic coating. Also, to my disgust, I found out from the coating supplier afterwards that the coating should have been added to the car INDOORS, not outside in the sun. Maybe I should have checked the detailer’s accreditation, but as a professional detailer, working on the types of cars I saw on his social media, there was already that level of customer expectation, so I did not check. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Sigh.
CUSTOMER SERVICE – 002
This is my second point of customer service. If you specialise in something, get accredited. I teach AutoCAD and consult around AutoCAD. I am an Autodesk Certified Professional (ACP) and an Autodesk Certified Instructor (ACI). I make sure that those accreditations are always maintained. It allows customers to know that you have reached a specific level of service provision and gives them peace of mind.
And now, the coup de grace. About a week after the ceramic coat had been ‘applied’ to my car, we had to drive in the rain. A ceramic coating should make the water ‘bead’ and run off the car. Due to the coating not being applied correctly, the polar opposite happened. The car became a water magnet. Water stuck to the car and would not run off. We also noted that whatever the detailer had applied to the windscreen and other windows had not been applied properly as, in the rain, the smearing was blatantly obvious when the windscreen wipers were on. Disappointed was an understatement.
CUSTOMER SERVICE – 003
When performing a task, do it right. Make every effort to make sure it is done correctly FIRST time. Getting something right the first time ensures that rework is not required. It also makes for a happy customer! Sure, things don’t go right sometimes, and if that is the case, you offer to rework them at YOUR cost, not the customers, or you make sure it is covered by YOUR insurance.
It is now the 9th of August. After going through purgatory with my insurance company, I got my BMW back from the body shop today, and I am pleased to say that it is now back in pristine condition, apart from the ceramic coat. The coating will have to be removed and reapplied, and I have had to employ a specialist company to do this, at MY cost. I also had to pay a significant insurance excess to release my car from the body shop as well.
The previous detailer has not ONCE reached out to admit liability. I am relying on my insurance company to chase him down, so I don’t hold out much hope, but if liability is admitted, I will get my insurance excess back, plus some uninsured losses as well, including paid time lost while submitting my claim. Here’s hoping that happens.
Customer service is king…
Running a business, you need to keep customers happy. This not only makes sure that the customer gets what they pay for, but it also generates repeat business, and through word of mouth, it can lead to new business. I won’t let that detailer near another one of my cars again, so he has lost my business. I have also spoken to several other prestige car owners I know locally, and through word of mouth, he won’t get their business either. I can only hope that other customers won’t have to go through the world of pain I went through, trying to get him to accept liability, and subsequently disappearing into the customer service abyss of an ineffectual insurance company where I, eventually, had to contact the CEO to get things moving.
As the title of the blog goes, customer service is king.
In this industry, look after your customers and your business won’t go far wrong.
Talking of business, it would be remiss of me if I did not advertise my services! A bit of blatant self-promotion goes a long way!
Maybe check out a few of my AutoCAD courses over in the LinkedIn Learning library: –
Learning AutoCAD 2024
AutoCAD 2024 Essential Training
And for those of you who want some of those cool AutoCAD Tips & Tricks, you will find them here: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/autocad-tips-tricks/welcome
I’ll see you again soon with another Not Just CAD! blog!