Big Decision

When To “Fire” A Customer



Do you have some of those customers that no matter what you send them, the part doesn’t meet their expectations? They’ll call you and ask for a replacement part or they’ll want money off, claiming the part has damage. It might be in the company’s best interest to “fire” that customer.

Parts are never perfect in this business and auto recyclers supply a like, kind, quality part. It is important for your sales staff to know the customers. When the salesperson answers the phone the first thing he or she should do is ask who they are talking to. Find the customer in the YMS (yard management system) and look at the sales-to-return figures. The sales-to-return figures will help the salesperson know how to handle this customer, while the deal is being made. If the customer has a habit of returning or asking for credit, the salesperson should make sure that the part gets inspected thoroughly. If you have a quality control department, it is their job is to check the part over and convey any issues to the salesperson. If necessary the salesperson should look over the part, then call and convey any damage to the customer not previously discussed. Under-promise and over-deliver. This is a good business policy and makes for a happy customer with less returns or credits.

Customers like good surprises not bad ones. If the part is not in a condition that the customer will accept, sometimes the wiser choice is to not sell the part. Some people may feel that any sale is better than no sale. So let’s think about that. Is there a time when giving a discount or credit is justified? Yes, by all means there is. If you knew the part had additional damage on it before it left and didn’t call the customer to let them know, then shame on you. A good salesperson will always call the customer if there is additional damage. But what about the customer who calls on eight out of 10 parts and asks for credit repeatedly for unjustified damage? Unjustified damage could be a small scuff, scratch or something else that would normally be taken care of when the shop does its regular prep work. If this is the case, why should credit be issued? $25 here $50 there, it all adds up.

What about the customer that calls, you give them a price, only to hear, “Well what is my price?” Have you changed the price before when they’ve said this and now it’s become a habit? Has the customer learned that you are always willing to discount the original price you give them? Sometimes you simply have to stand your ground and say, “I’m sorry but this is the best price I can give you right now.” Sometimes the customer will accept that and take the part, sometimes not. But if you lower the price every time they ask, this will become a habit and continue, discount after discount, credit after credit. Customers talk, soon you will have other customers starting the same type of behavior.

If you know that a part was good when it left your business and the customer calls to ask for credit for damage, try saying, “Sorry but I can’t do that right now. Have my delivery man bring the part back so I can see how this additional damage happened.” You’ll be surprised how the customer will change his or her mind and are now willing to keep that part for the price quoted. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying about credits. At times it is justified to allow the customer damage credit. Damage can be missed during inspection. Damage can also occur on the truck. No matter what you do to minimize these problems, they will happen from time-to-time. My only hope is that the compromise is fair to both parties - the auto recycler and the body shop.

Delivery trucks don’t run on water and drivers don’t drive for free. What bothers me, and it should you too, is how some customers hold the recyclers to blame for mistakes. They demand compensation for their time and materials, but think nothing of returning or rejecting a part when the job totals or their customer is a no show. No phone call to you, no I’m sorry. Sometimes a customer calls weeks or months later when they find your part sitting in the corner and want to return it. Where is your compensation? Do they offer to pay for your time and labor? Perhaps the recycler could have sold that part if it was back in stock.

These are the type of customers that need to be monitored and perhaps fired. What this all boils down to is the sales staff needs to know who their customers are and what they will be willing to accept or decline. Be honest with your descriptions, check the parts before delivering them and have the customer inspect the part upon delivery. There is a system to handling customers and this system needs to be followed for the relationship between shops and recyclers to grow in harmony. When the system breaks down, problems will arise. Communication is fundamental. Don’t be afraid to fire a customer. You may feel a sense of relief.

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