Saturday, March 16, 2013

Diary of a Service Department Waiting Room

As part of the MyGuy research in summer 2012, I spent 12 days observing dealership service department waiting rooms. These dealers were chosen by their OEMs as the “best-of-the-best”. The following are true stories of the situations I saw and the conversations I overheard…

A customer sat down in the waiting room and made a phone call:

“It’ll cost $500 for the repair; the labor is $120, so it ended up at $400 for the little motor. We’ll get Anthony from down the street and see what he can do. And the guy is trying to pitch me on everything — that flush and this flush; it would cost me a grand to get out of here today. So I had them just do the oil change. They told me they already had 80 cars, the waiting room is full. I should be out of here within an hour since it’s just the oil change. And there’s nothing close to get something to eat, nothing within blocks.”
This conversation seemed like the example in an exercise where you have to read a story and then find and fix the customer service problems! Do you think this customer will be back? Or is Anthony from down the street going to get all of their future business?

What about loaner cars? The MyGuy research found that service departments that always or sometimes “transferred customers to alternative transportation in a reasonable amount of time” had an average of 8% higher market share than those that rarely or never did so. How long is a “reasonable amount of time” when you are trying to get to work in the morning? Five minutes? 15 minutes? Customers at one dealership, which uses a local car rental company, waited upwards of 45 minutes for their loaner cars. Reasonable? I don’t think so.

At another dealership, a customer needed a new wheel. She was in the waiting room with a young child, using the play area, when the service advisor came to talk to her:

Customer: What do you think on timing for the rim?

Service Advisor: Probably a week.

Customer: I don't really want to be driving on the spare for a week.

Service Advisor: Okay, let me get creative. How about a rental?

Customer: I drive a wagon. I need it to be big enough.

Service Advisor: Let me call them, would a minivan work?

Customer: I don't want anything gas guzzling.

Service Advisor: Okay, I'll call them and let you know.
A week? A week??? This OEM offers order types that would get the part there much quicker than a week, especially if it’s a critical situation. Even the next stock order should be able to get it there in a couple of days. Another customer in the waiting room was told that “we'll have the new part in three business days”. Why the disparity?

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom; there were plenty of happy customers too. At 12:30 pm at one dealership, a customer had just finished chatting with the service advisor about his completed work and was packing up his things to get his car. All of the other customers who had been waiting that morning had received their service and left. He began talking to me about how he was thrilled to have the work covered under his powertrain warranty, as it would have cost him $900 otherwise. He had purchased his car there and absolutely loved the dealership and the service department. Despite the five hours he spent in the waiting room, he was leaving happy.

At another dealership, I overheard the service advisor performing the active delivery process with a customer:

“Hi {name}, I want to go over your car quickly. The tire is all set, there was a hole. It cost $14 to patch the hole. I also recommend 2 new tires due to {reason}. We can get the ones we recommend, it would be $290 for the 2 new tires, installed and balanced. It also needs an alignment for $89. I will note this on the repair order; you should do it before wintertime.”

This service advisor clearly explained what was done and why, as well as what needed to be done next, without pressuring the customer to do it all today. Now the customer has the information needed to prepare for the next visit, and can trust that the advisor was doing exactly what his job title says – giving advice, not upselling or using scare tactics.

Bottom line: These dealerships were nominated as the best-of-the-best, but it’s easy to see that every service department has areas to improve, as well as areas where they excel. To all the service managers and dealer principals out there, try sitting in the waiting room during the morning rush. Listen to what is going on around you. Or have a friend mystery shop your service department and tell you how it went. You may be surprised at what you hear.

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