Smog Checks Are Silly, Clear Expectations Are Not

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Every year I, along with millions of drivers receive the bill in the mail from the state to register my card for another year.  Generally it’s about four months early so I stick it in a file to deal with at a later date.  With the deadline looming, I looked at the form only to see three words I dread…”Smog Check Required.”  And then if you’re really lucky you get two bonus words…”Test Only.” To compound it, mine said “Star Certified Test Only.”  That one was new to me.  I’m too lazy at the moment to research emissions laws in other states but I’ll say this is definitely a unique joy of owning a vehicle in California.

The special “Smog Check Test Only” means that you have to take your car to a special station that only does tests and cannot do repairs.  I think it helps keep everyone honest.  I looked online and found one in my area.  Silly me still drove to my favorite Smog Test Only place to see if they could do the test and he said “Nope, you need to look online and find a Star Certified one.”  Never mind the fact that there was one within walking distance of his shop.

So I got to the Star Certified Test Only shop and rather than telling you a boring story, I’m going to skip to what the guy at this shop did right:

  • He Set and Communicated Clear Expectations: When I walked in he said “Yes I can do the test.”  He then said “Your price is $50 out the door and I’ll be done in 20 minutes.”
  • He Met or Exceeded My Expectations: I went in thinking this was going to take an hour.  He was done in less than 20 minutes and I was on my way.  No one likes getting a smog check so kudos to him for making it quick and painless.

In the Smog Test Only business I’m guessing customer loyalty is extremely difficult to come by.  The fact that this was a quick, hassle-free experience means I will probably return to that shop again next year.  I will think twice about going to the first place I tried because he suggested I go home and call around rather than pointing out the place that could meet my needs right down the street.

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Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, the most respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on the Customer Service Life. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

2 comments

  • Ahhh, it’s so refreshing to have reliable, friendly, trustworthy auto experts out there. Whether it be a smog check or inspection, this also reminds me of the “”Mechanics” of Good Customer Service” post I wrote back in November (http://communicatebetterblog.com/customer-service-takes-a-good-mechanic/). I find it odd that the other guy didn’t direct you to this location. He obviously couldn’t get your business anyways, so what did he have to lose?

    • That was a great post Jenny. Mechanics are in such a sensitive position. The fact that most of the people that take their car in are in such a vulnerable position of having to trust someone with one of their most expensive possessions to do a repair that will cost a lot of money. All the while, most customers don’t know squat about cars. So much trust needed!

      Mechanics need not take that responsibility lightly and approach customers with a positive attitude, willingness to train the customer or at least inform and setting clear expectations are clear for mechanics. The recipe for loyalty! Wow, sounds like everything we need to be doing when we handle people’s phone systems.

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