From the Other Side of the Counter

Jerry Wakefield NewsletterIf you’ve been receiving our company’s newsletters for some time now, you have read some phenomenal ideas on how to improve your service department. I would like to share with you my own personal experience at a car dealer, and what I have seen numerous times happen while working in dealerships throughout the country.


I recently needed some work done on my own vehicle, and just did not have the time to do it myself. So, I called my local dealer to find out how much they would charge, how long it would take to install a block heater on my truck, and when I could make an appointment to have the work done. The service advisor I spoke to stated I could bring my truck in at one o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, but he had to look up what the charges would be. I stated I already purchased the part from the parts department and it was factory original. The advisor asked if he could put me on hold, and find out how much the charge would be to install the block heater. Now, I’ve got to admit that seemed strange; how you can tell me when I can bring my truck in for service when you don’t know how long it takes to do the job? So, after a couple of minutes the advisor got back on the phone and quoted me a price. Now from my experience, I calculated that they were charging me approximately an hour and a half to do the job, so I told the advisor I would like to make an appointment for Wednesday at one o’clock to have my block heater installed.

I arrive at the store a few minutes early and thinking as I walked in the door, do I want to try to get a deal on this? Should I tell the guys who I work for and what I do for a living? Or should I just go directly the service manager and try to sell some consulting services and try to get a discount this way? Well, I decided that I wasn’t going to do anything but just walk in like an everyday customer and see how this dealer takes care of their customers. I did tell the advisor that I knew there was an open recall on my truck because I wanted to let them have the opportunity to offer me an inspection and do what many of us have talked about in our newsletters in the past. I also wanted to see if he was going to talk to me about how long the total job would take now that the job had gone from just installing a block heater to installing a block heater, and installing a wiper motor which was what the open recall was for on my truck. Well let’s just say until I asked, nothing was said. However I do have to add that the advisor did ask if I was going to wait, or did I need a ride home. The Advisor stated the job would take about an hour and half, and I stated that I would be waiting for the truck. The advisor finalized the paperwork, printed the repair order, had me sign it, and showed me where the waiting room was.

So I’m sitting in the waiting room for approximately an hour and a half and starting to wonder how’s my truck doing? So, I walked back into the service drive, and walked past the service desk and looked at my truck on the lift. I made a point to stand in front of the service drive write up area and look at my truck on the lift in front of the advisor that wrote my repairs up. I looked at him he looked at me and went about his business. Not even noticing or knowing that the promised time he gave me was not going to be met. So, I’m standing there with a dilemma; Do I start asking questions? Do I ask for the manager? I asked myself what would a normal customer do at this time? Well, I think we all know what the answer is to that one. I decided to give the advisor the opportunity to keep me posted on the status of my vehicle. Isn’t this what we want our advisors to be doing on our service drive? So, I returned to the waiting room. Approximately 45 minutes later, I again walk from the waiting room into the service write up area, stand in front of the advisor that wrote my repair up and looked at my truck still on the lift. Then, I looked at him, he looks at me and acknowledges me, and it still doesn’t give me any sort of information about the status of my truck. The same dilemma happens again. Again, I do nothing but go back up in the waiting room and give the advisor the opportunity to give me a status update on my truck. Now, we are approaching an hour longer than his original promised time. Again, nothing happens; no update. I’m in the waiting room and I start noticing that the same customers are still sitting in the waiting room, and that some were there when I first got there. I am also aware that none of them had received any sort of update on the status of their vehicle. I don’t know what times they were promised, but here again no one was coming up to the waiting room until vehicles were completed. Well, approximately another 45 minutes goes by and I start wandering the showroom looking at new cars on the showroom floor to just pass the time. I notice on the door under the hours of operation, that the service department closes at five, and sales closes at six. I looked at my phone and notice the time is almost 4:30 pm so, I start thinking; is my truck going to be done before they close? I walked back to the service department look at my truck still on the lift, and don’t see the advisor that wrote my repair up anywhere. I went back up to the waiting room hoping my truck would be done before they close.

Well, I’m sitting in the waiting room and it’s a quarter to five, the store is closing in 15 minutes. The service advisor comes up to me and says “you’re truck is all done”. He walks me over to the cashier, explains the ticket, tells me that they had the part in stock to do the recall, and then tells me the reason for the delay was that positive cable to the battery had to be sent out for repair because of the age of the vehicle, the cable end came off where it attaches to the starter. So, I’m thinking okay here we go now not only have I been in the store over 2 hours longer than he said it would be, now it would be costing me more than what he quoted. Well, I will say they honored the original price quoted.

 I know this seems like a long drawn out story, and I know that most customers would have probably been screaming at the service department, and most likely the service department would have had to discount the services because of the delay, but here are my questions. Does anything like this happen at your store? How many times have customers come up to you and said they told me my car was supposed to be done in an hour ago? Or, has the situation been worse?

 My point to this whole story is how simple would it have been for the service advisor to come up to the waiting room and talk to me about the issues with my vehicle? Was the technician keeping the service advisor updated with the issues he was having? Would the delay in repairing a customer’s vehicle really be an issue if the customer was updated on the issues with the vehicle before the promised time was not going to be met? I know all of you out there working in dealerships have had similar situations. When a lot of the issues could have been avoided by simply keeping the customer updated on the status of their vehicle, and this includes vehicles that are not waiters. I had plenty of time that day, my only concern was the vehicle going to be completed before they close. Now, I could have complained and probably got a discount, but I didn’t. I could have asked for the manager and told her of my situation, but I didn’t. Now think about it, how many instances do we have a customer in our dealership with nothing but time to get their vehicle repaired? Not often.

In closing, vehicle status updates should be done consistently with all customers; even when promised times are going to be met. A customer’s time is as important as their vehicle, and we must insist that our advisors develop this practice. Does a waiter drop your food off at a restaurant and then, just bring the check when you’re done? No they come back and check on you to see if you need anything else. This is how they raise the ticket price and hopefully their tip. Can this same practice work in a service department? YOU BET IT WILL!!!



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