Customer service report card: car dealer service
Posted by Becky Carroll on September 18, 2007
In last month’s BrandingWire installment, I discussed car dealers and the service experience. This month, we had the opportunity to test the service department at the dealer where we just bought our new truck, and unfortunately, the dealership failed on most of the criteria for great customer service.
In the previous post, I mentioned the critical factors that J.D. Powers uses in their annual car dealer service satisfaction survey. Those factors include the following:
- Service initiation
- User-friendly service
- Service delivery and quality
- In-dealership experience.
Let’s look at the service experience my husband just had and rate it against the J.D. Powers satisfaction criteria.
Problem: New truck (2 months old) had water leaking onto the floor mats on the passenger side (so much water that the floor mats were dripping wet and starting to smell bad).
Resolution: The air conditioning duct was plugged up; it was determined to have been delivered that way from the factory. It was unplugged, and the water leakage stopped. We asked to have the carpet and floor mat vacuumed to help get rid of the smell of mold and mildew. The dealer refused. We had to badger the service manager in order to get a fungicide applied to the carpet.
Service initiation – He pulled the truck into the service department at the designated time for an appointment. No less than three service personnel walked by, yet no one acknowledged my husband. He finally had to leave the vehicle and go into the service office in order to get attention.
The experience in the office was no better, as no one had any record of the appointment (which had been made online on the dealer’s website). He finally got the truck checked-in.
Improvement opportunity: When my husband arrived, he should have been immediately acknowledged, perhaps by signing a check-in list which indicated his previously-arranged appointment. The internet appointment system should be coordinated with the service manager’s records or be discontinued.
User-friendly service -Multiple phone conversations to try and convince the dealership they should replace, or at least clean the wet and mildewed carpet and floor mats are not considered user-friendly. Comment from the dealership when my husband first made this request: “I don’t smell any mildew. We aren’t going to clean the carpet.”
They finally cleaned the carpet and floor mat on the passenger side of the truck after much discussion.
Improvement opportunity: A customer just spent thousands of dollars to purchase a new vehicle at your dealership. Interactions during early service appointments will set the stage for future interactions. The time/cost to clean the carpet is negligible compared to the potential value of future service opportunities.
Service Delivery and Quality – The problem was fixed, so this area seems acceptable. Not a “wow”, but acceptable.
Improvement opportunity: Take a few moments to explain to the customer what the problem was and how it was resolved. This helps build trust and confidence in the dealer’s service department.
In-Dealership Experience – The service department arranged to have the keys available inside the dealership for truck pick-up after the service department closed for the day.
The ultimate test, really, is whether we would bring the truck back to this dealership for service. Since it is still under warranty, the answer is yes (we are hostage to the selling dealership until warranty expires). Would we bring it back for post-warranty repairs? This is where the dealer makes most of their service profit. Answer: Probably not, as our first experience was very poor! Here is the sentiment: If I’m going to get lousy service, I may as well get lousy service from my local mechanic, who charges less!
King for a Day
When we went into the dealership to buy the truck, we were treated like royalty. We were offered sodas from the vending machine, fresh popcorn was popping and brought to us, the salesman was joking around with us and having fun. The “guys in the white shirts and ties” were great.
The sales contract is signed. The salesman promises to send us one of those really nice keychains labelled with the car brand. We drive off the lot.
The keychain never arrived (we found out when we picked up the keys from service that the salesman left the dealership). We are ignored in the service department, even though we have an appointment. The service personnel seem more interested in saving money than in pleasing the customer. The “guys in the coveralls” don’t seem to care about our business.
Service needs an extreme makeover. They are often treated as second-class citizens inside of companies; it is any surprise they treat customers the same way? This shouldn’t be the case! Customer service is the face of the company to most customers. It is the area where most customer-facing interactions take place. It is time for companies to stop viewing it as a “cost of doing business” and instead, view it as a key to building strong customer relationships and, ultimately, referrals.
Organizations that can take this long-term view will find themselves ahead of their competition, with customers who will be loyal for many years.