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How AutoZone Made Me a Customer For Life

Can we be completely honest about something? We all deal with a lot of different businesses, but it’s only when we have a bad experience with one that we ever say anything substantial about them. And at that point, of course, what we say is completely negative.

There are a number of companies I do business with and some of them are actually excellent businesses to work with. One of these companies is AutoZone, the auto parts supply company.

I’ve been an AutoZone customer for several years. My wife and I have two older cars, and as we all know, the older a car gets the more repairs it needs. AutoZone has been like a “partner” for us, helping us to keep our debt-free cars a few years longer at lower cost.

Saving on car parts compared to parts at repair shops

Here’s something I’ve learned from working with independent mechanics and a little do-it-yourself—full service repair shops charge two to three times the actual cost of the parts they put into your car.

The cost of a part that a repair shop would charge $250 for—PLUS labor, taxes and various sundry charges related to auto repair—can be purchased at a parts store like AutoZone for around $100. That’s huge and a real incentive to find less expensive ways to repair your car!

But if that isn’t enough…

Free computer diagnostics

You’ve undoubtedly seen those infomercials hawking CarMD and other computer diagnostic tools—they charge well over $100 for those. That can seem like a real deal when you consider that full service repair shops and dealer mechanics will charge $100 to $150 for the same service. That’s just to tell you what’s wrong with your car—they haven’t fixed anything yet.

But you can get a similar service from AutoZone at no charge. And just as important, they’ll interpret the diagnostics for you and tell you what parts you need to fix the car. All you have to do is bring your car to one of their stores, they hook up the diagnostic tool, then give you a print out of the findings.

There are at least two ways this service alone can save you a ton of money:

  1. Knowing what’s wrong with your car gives you more options, including the option to fix it yourself
  2. Knowing what’s wrong with your car and what’s needed to fix it gives you a stronger position in dealing with a mechanic. You’ll not only know what’s wrong but you’ll also know what parts are needed—and what parts aren’t!

Knowledgeable staff makes a different

I’ve learned a couple of things about car repairs over the years; one is that no one is an expert in all cars or in all car repairs. The other is that you can almost always find less expensive ways to fix your car if you get out and talk to people who are knowledgeable about cars. I’ve managed to form what I loosely call my “panel of car experts”. This is a group of friends, mechanics and supply sources who I turn to in a moment of automotive need.

The carpenters saying is “measure twice and cut once”, but this is invaluable advice when it comes to car repairs too. When ever we have a problem with one of the cars I discuss the problem with each of my panel of experts to try to get a consensus before spending any money. One of the “experts” on my panel are the staff at AutoZone. And yes, there’s always a less expensive way to fix the car.

Customer service that’s second to none

Many companies are pretty good at what they do. But the best evidence of a great company is what they do when something goes wrong. Whether it’s an individual or a business, we all make mistakes—that’s human nature. What makes a person or business standout however is the follow up—what they do to make right what went wrong.

A few weeks ago I ordered a specialized part from AutoZone that had to be shipped from an outside location. I was given an arrival time of 3pm on a Friday–perfect, I’ll get it to my mechanic and have the car back by Saturday afternoon. But Friday came and the part didn’t. Saturday, same thing–Sunday, ditto. We’re now running into the new work week and we need a car. Not knowing when the part would arrive we rented a car for two days in the hope that the part would come in on Monday and we’d have the car back by Tuesday.

As hoped, the part did come in on Monday (it had been shipped to the wrong store). I asked the store staff if I could be reimbursed for the car rental–it was the shipping delay that forced us to need a rental–and they said that corporate would have to handle it.

I sent an email to AutoZone’s customer service department, and a week later they got back to me with the name and phone number of the regional office; I left a voice mail message, and the next day the local district manager called. She apologized for the inconvenience, thanked me for being a loyal customer, and told me that I could pick up the reimbursement at the local store the next morning!

Mistakes get made in business all the time; the companies I want to do business with aren’t the ones who don’t make any mistakes, they’re the ones who make good on them when they happen. Nothing breeds more confidence in a customer than knowing that a company will make good on a mistake!

Life is complicated enough–it helps to know that some of the companies I deal with have my back when something goes wrong. AutoZone is one of those companies and I’ll be a customer for life and will recommend them to anyone I know.

This article is NOT an advertisement for AutoZone nor have I been compensated by the company in any way. This is just me writing about the positive experiences I’ve had in dealing with the company for the past several years.

We all like to complain when companies mess up, but are there any companies you work with who have gone above and beyond to make it right and won your business in the process?

( Photo from Flickr by time_anchor )


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