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Four ways to regain customer trust after a comeback

April 2, 2024
How to repair the customer relationship when a vehicle repair needs re-addressing.

Comebacks happen. When a repair needs re-adressing, it may or may not be your fault, but it likely doesn't matter too much to the customer. Repairing the customer relationship can be just as important as repairing the vehicle when it comes to their future servicing needs. There are plenty of maintenance provider options, so one bad experience could be the difference between retaining a customer for life or losing them for good.

Kendall Warnock, owner of A1 Automotive in Lincoln, Nebraska, has a clear cut philosophy when it comes to comeback customers. His 'customer is always right' attitude and willingness to own mistakes and fix things have led him to believe that he’s salvaged 90% of his comeback customers in his career.

And retaining comeback customers is especially critical for smaller shops. It’s David versus Goliath—independent auto repair shops fighting for market share with chain stores and dealerships—so it’s so important to know how to deal with inevitable customer issues, Warnock told Ratchet+Wrench, sister publication of Fleet Maintenance.

“You have to build trust so that they don’t want to go anywhere else,” he said. “It’s consistent effort, energy, and connecting to customers as much as you can. Relationships matter.” 

Warnock boasts nearly $2.5 million annually in his five-bay shop, and thanks to his excellent quality control, says he only had five comebacks in 2023. When it comes to helping technicians handle comebacks, retain customers, and regain trust, he had four key points.


Openly communicate with the customer 

Be upfront and honest about what happened, Warnock says. Keep your customers informed about what exactly is going on and how you are going to make it right. 

Take full responsibility

Own it. Even if it was someone else’s fault, like a parts supplier or a new tech, Warnock says he always takes ownership of the situation because the customer is always right. 

Definitely don’t blame the customer — that's an easy way to get them to walk away from you for good.

Maintain a positive attitude 

Customers will appreciate it if you are friendly and willing to make the situation better, and are much more likely to come back if they enjoy their interaction with your team. 

Show that you care

A successful shop owner and team needs to put its customers first and care about what happens to them beyond the walls of the shop. If customers can tell that you care, they will come back, even if you’ve made a mistake on their vehicle. 

“You have to put your customers first,” Warnock says. “If you look them in the eye and say that you made a mistake and it’s on me to fix it, you will prove that you’re worthy of another opportunity.” 

But the best way to retain comeback customers is by avoiding comebacks altogether, of course. That’s why excellent quality control is key in Warnock’s shop. Making sure thorough standard operating procedures are in place so that nothing is missed on a vehicle and ensuring his entire staff knows the importance of completing each step of a diagnosis or repair every single time helps keep comebacks to a minimum.

That being said, even the best of the best have occasional comebacks, and some customers are impossible to win back no matter how hard you try. You can't win them all, but if you provide a great service and prove that you care, Warnock says you’ll come out on top. 

For the full story, visit Ratchet+Wrench, part of Endeavor Busienss Media's Vehicle Repair Group

About the Author

Fleet Maintenance staff