MOT CUSTOMER SERVICE – A GUIDE FOR MOT TEST STATIONS

MOT Customer Service

MOT customer service – What does it mean?

To give great MOT customer service you must interact with customers in a way that builds trust and loyalty.  You want you customer s to come back time and time again.

Here’s how you do it.  This blog will give you important tips and techniques to not only provide the customer service the DVSA say you should but also how you can get and keep more customers.

Why you need great MOT Customer Service

You are running or managing a business that, for its continued existence, which is require to keep a roof over your head and food on your table, needs customers to give it money in exchange for a service or goods.

In other words the more customers you can encourage to come back, the less time and money you have to spend looking for new customers meaning you can spend more time earning money.  Simples.

How do you build trust and loyalty

Customers give their trust and loyalty to those businesses that not only deliver the service that the customer requires but deliver it in the way the customer desires.

You may well deliver MOTs to the greatest accuracy in the country in the fastest time possible but if you and your staff are unfriendly to customers and do not have a clean and tidy premises it is much less likely your customers will return next year.

First Impressions

First impressions count.  These are the ones that stick. It is very difficult to change people’s mind once an opinion has formed.

The quality of the service you provide is important but the customers’ perceived quality of the service you provide is more important. It is the clients perception he relies upon to make a buying decision.

You must therefore create an environment that allows the client to draw the conclusions about your business you want them to.

Premises

Research has indicated that 85% of our perception and cognition is driven by our vision. When customers arrive to your station they will draw conclusions from what they see.  Make sure your site looks clean and tidy.

This could include

    • signage for your business – is it clean, well-positioned, in good condition?
    • the forecourt – is it free of rubbish and swept, is there clear signage and way-finding?
    • the building – is it in good condition, have the windows been cleaned?
    • the reception area – do you have refreshments available, something to read, comfy seating, hand sanitizer etc. Is it clean and inviting? Would you like to spend time in it?
    • Toilets – are they clean and sanitary?
    • workshop – is it tidy, can customers watch the technicians at work, could you provide a method for doing so – CCTV perhaps.

If it’s dirty, clean it.  If there is rubbish or stuff lying around that is not being used, put it in the bin or tidy it away.  A pile of stuff is arranged so it looks tidy it is better than a disorganised pile of stuff.

Paperwork spread out across a desk is a haphazard way tells a different story than the same paperwork shuffled into a neat pile.  It is still the same paperwork but the person who sees it will draw a different conclusion.

Personnel

You and your staff need to appear professionally competent. A relaxed and friendly manner and uniform that is appropriate and clean (as much as it can be in a garage environment) will give the right impression and allow the client to form the opinion that you are organised and know what you are doing.

They will be confident their car is in good hands and the hard earned money they give you in return for an MOT or other mechanical services will be money well spent.

How do you deliver good MOT customer service?

What are the practical steps you can take to ensure the customer receives the best customer service possible – or at least better customer service than before.

Clear Communication and customer focused action

Listen and communicate with the customer so you know what they want and then do whatever it is they want you to do.  Keep them informed on the way and take action to deliver a final result that, in an ideal world, exceeds their expectation.

Communication

Communication is a two way street however, you have two ears and one mouth and you should employ them in that proportion.

Take time to really listen to you customers.  Allow them to finish what they are saying before you interrupt even if it is with some useful or relevant information.  People love to be heard and by listening properly you will create in the customer a feeling of security and confidence in you.

Above all  it will show you know what they want and will be able to deliver it.

Nod, hmmm in agreement, look them in the eye, take notes, go for a test drive with them if they want to demonstrate an issue with their vehicle.  All of these things will create confidence in the customer that you are the person they need to do the job they want done.

Using non-technical language, repeating back to the customer what they have told you, not talking down to customers but checking they understand what you are saying are all great communication methods in the MOT environment.

Appointments or booking diary

You must ensure you offer appointments to customers wishing to get an MOT for their vehicle.

Appointments for any class of vehicle within your authorisation must be offered at the earliest time and date with consideration to workload and customer requirements.

You also have to keep written records of appointments made for vehicles without an MOT for three months and these records must include the VRM of the vehicle the date and time of the appointment and the name of the person making the appointment.

Keeping customers informed

The DVSA have some great information for customers on their website.

    1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/car-parts-checked-at-an-mot
    2. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/motorcycle-parts-checked-at-an-mot
    3. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/diesel-smoke-test-poster

You could take this information and create posters or leaflets to provide more information about the MOT as below and keep them in your reception area or even the viewing area.

MOT Customer Service poster - Elements of a car that are inspected during an MOT

MOT Customer Service poster - Elements of a motorcycle that are inspected during an MOT

Should the customer need to see the actual regulations around MOT testing or they request further information they should be directed to the online versions of the MOT Testing Guide and Inspection Manuals or shown via the MTS

Complaints and difficult conversations

There is also the possibility that the vehicle does not pass the MOT or there is some other outcome of events that is not what the customer was wanting.  A customer may wish to complain and handling the complaint in a professional, customer focused manner is important.

You would not want the complaint to escalate to the point at which a formal report against the VTS is made. As this could threaten you authorisation to test.

Customer focused action

What can you do that will exceed the customers’ expectations? Should you use seat and mat covers? Should you clean their car? How about a complimentary air freshener or ice scraper in the winter? Why not simply thank them for their business, assure them of your continued commitment to the maintenance of their vehicle and wish them a good day with a smile?

How to handle customer complaints – what to do when it goes wrong

It is inevitable that you will have to deal with a customer complaint at some point.  You will not be able to satisfy every customer all the time.  It is important to deal with all complaints correctly and to resolve them and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. You may even end up with a stronger relationship with the customer if this is done well.

Refusal to test a vehicle – VT30

Should you have reason to refuse to test a vehicle, refer to the relevant MOT Inspection Manual, you will need to let the customer know as soon as possible. If they want written proof you will need to register the vehicle to the MTS and issue a VT30 detailing the reasons for refusal.  In these circumstances you cannot charge for the MOT.

You will also need to issue a VT30 when a test is either aborted or abandoned.

Customer appeals against the decision to pass or fail a vehicle – VT17

It is a requirement that you make available the form VT17 on request of the customer.  This is the form they will need to use to appeal to the DVSA if they disagree with your decision to either pass or fail their vehicle.

Of course you do not want the situation get to the point of a formal appeal and there are many techniques you can use to help you deal with unhappy customers and resolve the situation to the clients and your satisfaction.

Have a Written Complaints Procedure

A clear complaints procedure is clearly a good idea.  Training all staff in the procedure is also a good idea.  It will save you valuable time if your staff can deal effectively with complaints on your behalf and it should prevent any unnecessary escalation. You and your staff will be prepared for any eventuality and your business will benefit from the improvements that genuine ‘feedback’ will prompt.

Dealing with complaints

Most situations can be resolved or calmed if you simply listen to the customer.  Most of the time people just want to vent and be heard. But how do you do that?

Step 1 – Adjust your Mindset

Remain calm and put yourself into a customer service mindset.

Put aside feelings that the criticism is unfair, the situation is not your fault or the customer is making a mistake.  The important thing here is to understand the customer is upset and you have to solve that problem.

This is not about you. It is about the customer and this will help you focus on them 100%.

Step 2 – Listen Actively

Firstly Give them your undivided attention

Look at the customer, put aside distracting thoughts, if necessary move to somewhere free of distractions, don’t prepare your defense in your head, pay attention to the customers body language

Secondly Show you are listening

Nod in agreement, ensure your body language is open and interested (don’t stand with your arms folded, if they want to stand then you should stand and if they are happy to sit you should too), use appropriate facial expressions, say yes or uh-hu to encourage the customer to talk.

Thirdly Check you have heard correctly

Repeat back to the customer what you have heard to make sure you have understood.  Expressions such as the following can be very useful to clarify your understanding of what the customer is actually saying.

  • From what you have said I understand that …….
  • It sounds like you are saying ……
  • Do you mean………
  • What do you mean when you say…….

 

Fouthly Don’t interrupt

Let the client finish.  No really let the client finish.  Silence is a powerful tool when communicating and if you do not immediately respond the customer will probably continue and shed more light on the situation. It will give them time to fully express themselves.

And finally Respond appropriately

Apologise. Its free. Many times a simple, genuine apology is all it takes to resolve the issue.

Use a low, calm tone of voice. Be honest and open in your reply.  You are adding nothing by putting the customer down or dismissing their opinions. You should however, assert your opinions in a respectful way and treat the other person as you would wish to be treated.

Step 3 – Present a Solution

If you are not sure what would resolve the issue and make the client happy then ask them. You could say, ‘If my solution does not work for you please let me know what would.  If I can do that then I will but if I can’t we could look at another solution”.

Step 4 – Act and Follow Up

Now you have communicated clearly to the client, have agreed what the client wants and what you will do you need to get on and do it. There is not much more to be said here.  If you have agreed to do something then you should do it within the agreed timeframe and within the agreed budget especially when dealing with a complaint.

You cannot develop trust and loyalty without fulfilling your promises.

“Business is won and lost on promises kept not on promises made”

Step 5 – Apply a Long-Term Fix

Use the complaint as genuine feedback.  How can you prevent the same complaint happening again. Find the root cause of the problem.  Do you need to offer training to your staff, replace or repair equipment, adjust or write procedures so everyone knows what to do?

This is the final link in a Quality Management System.

Further Advice on dealing with Angry or Abusive Customers

If a client is visibly angry, raising their voice or even shouting it can be very difficult not to respond in kind.  This will not move the problem towards a resolution and will no doubt escalate the situation. You will have a bigger problem to solve and what is the point of that?

Remain Calm

It can be very difficult to remain calm when emotions are running high.  However, remaining calm is what you need to do.

Counting to 10

Counting to 10 and deep breathing will help and as a result you will be able to deal more effectively with the situation.  When you get stressed you breathing will become shallow, your heart rate will rise, you may find you can hear your heartbeat, you may feel the pressure building in your head, your body will become tense.

Slow deep breathing

Slow deep breathing and a conscious effort to relax will help alleviate these symptoms of stress. You may find you need to count to 20 and make more effort to unclench your fists or relax your shoulders.

Buy yourself some time

Another technique is to buy yourself some time. Mentally step away from the situation. You can always ask the customer to repeat themselves.  Very probably they will delight in a second chance to appraise you of your failings. It will also give them time to vent and calm themselves. For instance you could ask the customer to come to a quieter place such as your office or even outside if you will not be overheard.

Have a policy for abusive customers

If a customer should become abusive you will be well prepared if you have already decided what you will and will not put up with and what action you will take. You will need to inform the client clearly of the boundaries of acceptable behavior and language.

You should be prepared to walk away from a situation if the customers behavior goes beyond the limits you have set.  It may be that they become fixated on you and you need to remove yourself from the situation and get a colleague to take over or step in.

Having a clear policy laid down and communicated to all staff will ensure the disruption from instances such as this are kept to a minimum.  You and your staff will have a set framework within which to work and it will reassuring to already have courses of action agreed and approved should a set of emotionally charged circumstances arise.

Final words

In conclusion customer service can be a challenging area of running an MOT garage.  I hope that this blog has given you some ideas to implement and improve this often overlooked but essential part of your business.

You should now have the tools to be able to appraise yourself, your staff and your premises. You can now make judgements on how you can improve your customer service offering. Written policies and procedures will certainly assist your staff in dealing with situations and make difficult conversations less daunting.

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Author: seanthemac

When not trying to tear the chicken strips off his Ducati’s tyres, Sean can be found coordinating the production of our training and CPD, keeping tabs on the finances, writing content for our blogs, guiding our marketing efforts and working with the team to plan out future development and evolution of MOT Juice.

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