Dealer Ops

Clearing The Customer Confusion

A number of months ago, I wrote an article based on my experience in following up customers after they were recently in the service department. The result was “Deadly Sins for Service Departments." Along with deadly sins on our part, sometimes it is the customer’s confusion which makes our CSI and SSI suffer. Enclosed are some suggestions and pitfalls to clear up the customer confusion.

Silent but deadly!

Out of one hundred customers surveyed, I would bet at least 75 percent have had a bad service experience at one time in their life. This bad experience could have been “….paid way too much for that air conditioning condenser on my holiday last year”, or “….. I had that repair done, but my car is still acting the same way.” or “…that service advisor took me for a fool, I always feel like I am being talked down to….”.

The bottom line is that with today’s highly specialized, highly competitive market place cars are becoming more complicated, and customers are being more perplexed. How many times has it occurred when a younger customer comes in to a service department, with another person acting as a “silent partner”? This other person, could be a Father, a Brother, a friend, for all we know it could be their accountant. The reason why we don’t know is because this person doesn’t usually say a thing; they are just there for support. That person acts a “silent supporter” for the customer. Why are they there in the first place? So that the customer won’t get ripped off! There, I said it. Nobody wants to admit it, but that’s why they are there.

I have talked to many Service Managers who feel that typically young women fall into this scenario. I would agree. However, nowadays with the increasing complexities of cars, and the highly specialized work that we all do, it’s no wonder we get blank faces from both male and female customers when talking about their cars. Take for example when a customer is trying to explain the malady of their car, I like the way Ben Ng (Star service advisor @ Eastside Dodge, Calgary, Alberta) helps people along. He has a sheet posted at his station diagnosing the different vehicle sounds.

The following examples are Vehicle Sounds:

Buzz: low pitched sound, something like a bee. Usually associated with a vibration

Clunk: Heavy metal to metal sound, like hammer striking steel

Grind: Abrasive sound, like grinding wheel, or sandpaper, rubbing against wood

Knock: Heavy loud repeating sound like a knock on a door.

Rattle: A sound suggesting looseness, such as marble rolling around in a can

Thud: Like a large object striking the bumper, usually another person, or large animal----Just kidding! I think you get the message. This, I find, is a great way of helping the customer explain things-not to mention good for the technician as well.

Talking Down to your Customer

Another major grief that some customers have is that Service Personnel “talk down to them.” Let’s analyze this statement for a minute. I think this statement means one of two things.

Firstly, the service person may be trying to explain to the customer by using too much techno-jargon. Hence, the customer feels that the service person isn’t explaining the bill properly. Instead, he’s/she’s complicating the explanation to make it sound like it’s worth a $400 repair bill!

Secondly, and on the extreme opposite end of the mis-communication spectrum; the customer feels that the explanation was too simple. A good example is “What does this service writer take me for? -An idiot! Of course I know what a CV joint is, this is my fourth front wheel drive car!”

Up selling on the Up sell

Some days, in fact, most days, the service advisor is in a very thankless position. One thing is for sure. The service advisor is definitely not going to get thanked by the customer if they are up selling on the up sell. What exactly does this mean? That’s exactly what I said when I first heard this. Allow me to paint a picture. Joe Customer comes in for his semi-annual tuneup, and tire rotation. The technician, while being astute finds that the customer requires back brakes. The customer is a “wait customer”, hence he re-books the car next week to get his brakes done. Fine! However, the next time the customer is booked in, a new service advisor books them in, and probably a new technician works on the Car. Hence, the new technician notices something else that needs to be done, nothing life or death, maybe a suggested coolant flush. It is then mentioned to the customer by way of a “progress telephone call." I don’t know about you, but I would be very perturbed if I got this call saying my car needs
something else.

The solution for this one is quite simple (in theory at least). Make it so that the same technician works on the car the second time around.

Being in the “people business” we will be subjected to human beings who are being….less than cordial. That, unfortunately, is a fact of life. However, there are some customers who are less than cordial ---most of the time. There isn’t much we can do about this type of customer other than:

Hear them out completely (don’t interrupt even if their story is long).

Thank them for their feedback

Restate their big concern, so you have it right.

Like all of the deadly sins and customer confusions, if we don’t take the time to find out if the customer is satisfied, then chances are they would pay the bill (un-happily), drive home and (God forbid) never come back to that service department.


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