The Tale of Two Customer Service Responses

New state (California) and new city (San Diego) meant it was time to register my cars — and in the State of California, getting a smog check is always a prerequisite. In an effort to make it as easy and convenient as possible for me, and find a new mechanic, I called the two closest to my house to see if they could do smog checks. The way each of them responded was so interesting.

Response #1

For the first mechanic, I called and was able to get someone on the phone. I said something along the lines of, “Hi, can you tell me if you do smog checks?” The response was a fairly straightforward, “No, we don’t do smog.” And I pretty much ended the conversation with “OK, thanks.”

Response #2

For the second mechanic, I called and left a message asking if they could do smog checks. The store manager called me back a bit later and his message said,

Hi, Mr Watkin. Thank you for your call. We don’t do smog checks at our shop but I hope you’ll stop by sometime for your other auto service needs.

My Response

Did you catch the difference between the two responses? While both mechanics answered my question, the first showed no interest in my business moving forward. The response from the second, on the other hand, kept the door open for the future and my response was to give them a call next time I needed a mechanic.

Fast forward a couple months and the check engine light came on in my car. Guess who I called? Yep, I called second mechanic and they did a great job. To add to the experience they left a thank you note (pictured) in the car that said, “You’re Ready to Roll” and included a snack for the road.

The Lessons

There are a couple great customer service and experience lessons here. First, sometimes we do have to tell customers we can’t do something for them. But what the second mechanic did well was to also tell me what they could do for me, which was perfect timing because I was also looking for a new mechanic. If I were in his shoes, the only thing I would have done differently is to also provide the customer with a short list of local businesses who can do smog checks.

Second, with the thank you note, they finished my experience in a memorable way, welcoming me to be their customer moving forward. Given that the experience was great from start to finish, I will most certainly return in the future.


*Note: I previously titled this post “A Memorable Customer Experience From Start to Finish” but after giving it some thought changed it back to my original title. This post is more about the fact that with a better response to my initial question, the second mechanic earned my business for a later auto repair.

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