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Waiting for Customer Authorization Extends Repair Time

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Summer is the busiest season of the year for auto repair. A big reason for the increase in repairs is the higher accident rate. Obviously, this will result in more work for auto repair shops. Unfortunately for shop managers and techs, drivers’ impatience with road conditions in summer will make them less patient during the repair process. However, the #1 reason for repair delays is not because of anything auto techs do or don’t do. It’s because they have to wait for customer authorization of repairs.

It seems counterintuitive that there are more car crashes in summer when the weather is nicer, but really drivers should pay more attention during the summer months because the traffic is worse and other drivers are distracted or impaired. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that drivers have a higher risk of getting into a car accident during the summer months than at any other time of the year.

Those car accidents drive the demand for repairs way up, but two other factors make drivers irritable this time of year: construction and congestion.

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Construction is everyone’s least favorite thing about summer. It frays everyone’s nerves. Drivers are more likely to take chances and rush in areas of construction because they’ve been delayed and are angry about it. Between rushing, dealing with other angry drivers and road workers, and the confusion about which lane to drive in or road to take, drivers’ patience is tested on a daily basis.

And then there is the road congestion. There are more cars on the road as people travel for vacation, on business, or to outdoor events. Many of these drivers are likely to be unfamiliar with the roads, confused, and distracted. They’re more likely to make quick turns or U-turns or drive while squinting at a map on their phone. When things go wrong and there is an accident, drivers’ tempers raise.

That means by the time they make it into an auto shop, whether because of an accident or other issue, drivers’ tempers are already up and they are ready to blame anything else that goes wrong on anyone available. Often that’s the shop staff. Customers want their cars back in great shape immediately. They don’t want to wait, and they can make it unpleasant for anyone they have to work with until the repairs are done.

What drivers don’t understand is that often they themselves are the biggest barrier to quick repair. Increased auto shop traffic does not necessarily mean longer wait times. When a well-run business is busy, techs often get more efficient, not less. They still have to wait for customer authorization on repairs, though. In other words, the single biggest thing that prevents customers from getting their cars back promptly is – customers.

When customers are readily accessible and ready to make decisions, their cars are done much faster in general. Unfortunately, shop staff can’t control that end of the equation. They cannot make customers be available to answer questions about what repairs they are willing to pay for. Cars can sit for days or even weeks before their owners respond and give the shop to go ahead and make repairs. Sometimes the problem is communication with customers unreachable and not checking their messages. Sometimes it’s because they dither about what repairs they want to make. Other times they don’t know how they will pay for the necessary repairs, and it takes time for them to find the funds needed.

The problem is that customers do not factor in how their own behavior contributes to delays when they lose their patience about how long repairs are taking. Once they make their decisions, it still takes the shop time to locate and acquire parts, do the repairs, and then contact the customer again to say the car is ready. No matter how efficiently shop staff do their part, the customer may still be in the mood to blame someone for their cars not working right and costing them money.

Auto shops are busier in summer, but that doesn’t mean that customers have to wait much longer for their cars to get repaired – if they remain available and respond quickly when they are asked to authorize repairs. What is the experience of your auto shop? Do you see a spike in business in the summertime? Are your customers harder to deal with during the summer season? What does your staff do to improve communication with customers and facilitate customer authorization of repairs? We’d love to have your feedback, so leave your comments either here or on our forums.