Clues to your service department’s shortfalls can be found online, where customer comments and ratings can reveal correctable management, communication, and morale issues.  Illustration by geralt via Pixabay

Clues to your service department’s shortfalls can be found online, where customer comments and ratings can reveal correctable management, communication, and morale issues. Illustration by geralt via Pixabay

When I visit or engage a dealership in some way, either as a consultant or as a customer, I check them out on social media. I want to see if I can get a feel for what they are all about and gauge the productivity of the service department before I get there.

This past week, I have been in several stores, but there was one that stood out. I have a friend who is one of their vendors. I asked him for an introduction to management. I purposefully did not research the dealership on social media because I wanted to try a little experiment. I wanted to see if my perception of the store would match what was being said about them on social media. So I went there without doing a “precheck.”

After meeting the parts, service, and general manager, doing a little observation and listening, I went home and checked them out on social media.

Guess what? My perception of the store matched what I found: This dealership is struggling in service. Overall customer satisfaction is down. A three-month audit shows their complaints are increasing. You can feel that there is something not quite right going on.

Comments and Star Ratings

I counted a total of 28 responses for the previous three-month period from two different social media sites. While there are more sites, I try to stick with the ones that most people are familiar with and that customers use most frequently.

The audit is simple. I pick a date, read the reviews, and categorize them by the comments and star ratings. I try not to make it complicated, but as many of you know, in our business, you can start analyzing anything all the way down to the beginning of time if you like.

I use three categories: “positive,” “neutral,” and “negative.” Within a few minutes, it is easy to spot trends, gather information about culture and personnel, and determine from the comments some of what is happening.

This dealership had 13 surveys in sales and 15 in service. Seventy percent of the surveys in sales were positive, zero were neutral, and 30% were negative. In service, it was 13% positive, 13% neutral, and 74% negative.

Since I am focused on fixed ops, that’s where I would dig in. From the comments, there are three main areas I would focus on if I were to train in this store:

• Poor scheduling and shop management: Clues to this problem can be found in comments like “three hours for an oil change” or “I had an appointment and it still took five hours” or “No one even started talking to me in the service drive for 15 minutes. I finally had to ask someone to help me.”

• Lack of communication: Comments like “They never called me back with an update, I always had to call them” or “They never even told me about (blank)” or “I did not even know about the (blank) until I asked them about it” are common.

• Poor attitude and low morale: Comments include “They are not very friendly” or “I didn’t feel welcomed” or “They don’t seem to want my business.”

When I walked out of that store, my perception as a trainer and consultant was that this dealership is struggling. Their image on social media confirmed it. My question to you is this: If I can get this kind of information and impression from one visit, what are your customers getting from their visits?

To be objective and effective in harvesting information from social media, you must look at the results differently. Use the reviews and comments to analyze your store from a 30,000-foot viewpoint, then narrow your focus to the people, processes, and profits that are falling short.

A word of caution when analyzing social media results and comments: Don’t get caught in the one-bad-customer trap. “But that was Bob Jones, and you know Bob Jones. Every time he comes in here, he is mad about something.”

This will lead you down the wrong path. Maybe Bob Jones is always angry about something, but are all your customers named “Bob Jones?” Nope. That’s why you tabulate the results without prejudice. Break down a three-month, six-month, or even longer period. Spot the trends, identify the problems, and create an action plan to correct them.

Leonard Buchholz is the founder of CarBizCoach. He helps dealers meet performance objectives in service sales, CSI, and profitability, and has extensive experience in evaluating fixed operations and providing corrective training and guidance. Contact him at [email protected].