When Things Go Bad: A Discussion Invitation

Posted on August 6, 2008 by LCT Magazine

By Jim A. Luff

The one thing certain about working with anything mechanical is the possibility of a breakdown.  From nails in tires to hoses and belts that break, it happens.  Alternators are the absolute worst culprit of the business.  When we buy new cars, we take off the factory alternators and toss them in the garbage, and replace them with heavy duty ambulance alternators. 
When something goes wrong, I know that people are going to talk.  Everyone loves to throw the limo company under the bus.  If you have a car that breaks down, or you make someone late to an appointment, or heaven forbid they miss their flight, cheap trash talk begins immediately.
In an effort to head this off, I sincerely try to go over the top in making amends.  I figure, the whole situation can only go in one direction or the other.  They will either be so impressed with how you handled the situation they will continue using your service for life or they will be so angry that they never return.  In either case, if you really give them something to talk about, they may still bad mouth you but hopefully they will finish the tirade with, "And you
know what they did for me?"
Here is an example of what we do when something goes wrong.  First, I refund the client's money in full.  It doesn't matter how long the run was or what the amount was.  If we failed to deliver anything less than exemplary service, I don't want their money.  If I ruined their plans in any way, I don't deserve the money.  Next, I give them a gift certificate for two hours of future service with the statement, "in hopes that we can leave you with a better impression" and I also include a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant.  They may combine the restaurant gift certificate and limo gift certificate if they want.  So, they end up paying nothing for the service they received.  They get free service in the future and a free meal as a token of my apologies.  My intent is to leave them overwhelmed that we go so far over the top to make up for a problem.
I am interested in hearing from others about how you would handle a vehicle breakdown or other similar catastrophe.

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