Within the article below I've censored the name of the company just in case. To clarify, I highly recommend them, but I don't want to cause any issues. I also want to note that all of this took place during the height of the UK's spring lockdown.
My husband and I have never had any major car issues before. Tire and brake replacements, sure, but never anything that required any major work. As such, we didn't have a local trusted mechanic we could call upon, and certainly not a sports car specialist.
So - what happened?
In short - the engine broke.
We went for a drive and heard something snap, followed by a lot of rattling. So we called for a rescue, got the car home, and began our research, eventually finding Company A.
It's not a company we'd used before, but we'd heard good reviews about them, and they were quite well known in the country for tuned cars... however as with anything potentially expensive, I was anxious.
- Are they actually any good?
- Is this too expensive to fix?
- What if we never see the car again?!
- Is this just the start of everything going wrong?
A lot of these questions can go through your clients minds as well, whether they're looking to get a brand new website, or seeking a rescue/repair job from you; especially if they've been burned in the past.
Unfortunately, due to the lockdown, Company A weren't taking phone calls... so whilst we'd confirmed they could look at the car, we still needed to arrange a collection.
They weren't the quickest in their email responses... sometimes waiting several days to reply, but eventually we confirmed the fee for the car collection, and the date it would be collected.
As that day drew closer and closer, we had no further communication with them regarding the collection. We didn't know what time they would arrive, or who was due to collect it (was it a third party?).
On the day of collection a man showed up with a trailer on the back of his car. We realised then it was MD of the company come to collect! I was a little relieved that it wasn't a third party, but still took photos of the car on the trailer, just in case!
Lesson: If you're due to collect anything from your client, whether it be files, or access details, be clear about what time you'll be arriving and confirm that the details work as soon as possible! Don't wait for them to chase on something so simple.
After the car was collected, it took a few days for them to confirm the car had arrived at their garage okay. During that time we had no idea if there'd been an issue, or an accident! It caused us unnecessary stress when all that was required was a quick 5 minute email to let us know the car had arrived safely.
Likewise during their investigation into the issues surrounding the engine, we had to chase for updates. To be clear, we weren't chasing daily - we were aware that it was a big job to disassemble an engine and diagnose the problem - but a short weekly update would've been nice, even if it the answer was "sorry, we've been busy, but we're still sorting through what's salvageable".
Lesson: Keep communication open and clear with your client. Don't leave it too long between correspondence. Even if your update is small, send it. They'll be at ease knowing progress is being made. It's important that you show your client they haven't been forgotten.
I always stick to honesty being the best policy; especially during this time of covid. Whilst customers and clients are more forgiving right now, they are also inherently more anxious as they worry about what the future holds for their business. Being honest and communicative will put them at ease.
Company A were good with this. Sometimes they would email just to say little progress had been made because someone had left the company, or their lead mechanic had taken ill. It was frustrating as a customer, but put me at ease knowing I hadn't been forgotten. It was just some unfortunate setbacks the company hadn't foreseen. We can't know everything when we start a project, there are always unknown unknowns.
Lesson: Working with a client is more than just getting a job finished. It's about building a relationship so they remember you when they need more work doing. You want to leave a good personal impression as well as a work impression. So, if you've had a personal set back which means your work isn't as far along as you'd like, be honest and tell your client.
To be fair, Company A did this well. They were clear from the start that PayPal was the easiest way to pay them, and even suggested we set up PayPal Credit to finance the work as they didn't offer financing options themselves.
The invoices we received were all broken down clearly, leaving no ambiguity about what we were paying for.
Lesson: Make sure your invoices are clear, and written so that a human would understand! If needs be, include a separate column which provides a little detail about what an item is; for example, SSL - Securing and encrypting the connection to the website.
When we finally got the call that the car was ready to be collected, my husband was obviously ecstatic! We arranged for collection the next day.
When we arrived the mechanic gave us a thorough handover, letting us know he'd run the engine in - so we could push it if we wanted - as well as advising us to change to a different oil if we had any track-days planned for summer. They also provided us an oil sample pot, so we could send it off for analysis after 2000 miles, just to double check there wasn't anything else untoward in the engine.
A follow-up email was also sent which included a service plan and details of the ECU mapping.
Lesson: Don't shirk on the handover. Create a user guide if needed, or just sit and walk your client through the website and how to use the CMS. This comes back to building a good relationship! Don't leave your client scared to touch the website in case they break it.
- Build trust at every step. Your customer will likely be anxious (like I was).
- Be compassionate. If your customer appears over anxious and is emailing you every day, be patient. Send those replies even if they're starting to bug you. They may have been sold horror stories that you need to dissipate.
- Keep dialogue open. Don't leave it weeks without communication.