Few dealerships are immune to making errors with regard to customer service. From poor communication to inconsistent survey collection, most fixed operations departments have had their share of missteps that have left clients frustrated.
While it would be unrealistic to garner nothing but five-star online reviews, minimizing mistakes is an initiative most dealership employees would agree is important.
Of course, a business can’t improve unless it’s willing to study its flaws. And on that note, Fixed Ops Business spoke with multiple industry veterans to learn about common customer service mistakes dealerships make.
Mistake #1: Not Clarifying Repair Timelines.
Nothing angers a customer more than a wasted afternoon spent stuck in a dealership’s waiting area. So, it’s important to give clients realistic repair schedules.
“People’s time is so important to them nowadays,” says industry veteran Steve Kramer, the fixed operations director at Performance Auto Mall in Chapel Hill, N.C. “You know, everybody’s running to get Johnny to hockey and Suzy to soccer. Time is the biggest factor for everybody.”
Mistake #2: Becoming Obsessed with Insurers.
Kevin Marvin, who manages Criswell Collision Center in Annapolis, Md., feels that dealerships, in general, spend too much time and resources on trying to keep insurance companies happy. A dealer’s first priority, he says, should be to the customer, not to any DRPs.
“Service advisors get wrapped up in the details of jumping through hoops for the insurance company, and don’t have as much time as they would normally need to properly care for the customer,” he says.
Mistake #3: Allowing Frequent Turnover.
These days, it’s hard to find great dealership employees, and often just as hard to get them to stick around. Dealerships run more smoothly when staffers stick around for years, and have time to gel as a group—a fact not lost on Jen Pawloski, the service manager at Bel Air (Md.) Subaru, a Jones Junction facility.
“If you have high turnover, the customers are skeptical,” Pawloski says, “and you’ve
lost that trust when they don’t have somebody to deal with regularly.”
Mistake #4: Poorly Documenting Customer Info.
If you’re not inputting every bit of customer information possible into your DMS or estimating system, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Marvin notes that it’s especially important to keep track of how customers prefer to be communicated with.
Mistake #5: Cutting Off Communication with Clients.
In Kramer’s 35 years in the industry, he has learned it’s imperative to keep customers in the loop during the repair process, especially if there are delays. A simple daily text, email or phone call can keep customers from becoming frustrated.
“If you communicate with clients, they realize that most people are human,” Kramer notes. “But if you don’t communicate with them …”
Mistake #6: Surveying Excessively.
These days, restaurants, cable companies and clothing outlets all express an interest in having customers fill out surveys. That’s why Pawloski’s staff makes a concerted effort to spread out their communication with clients.
That way, “we don’t give a follow-up call to the customer, and then the next day they get a CSI survey from the manufacturer,” he says. “You definitely have to be kind of discerning there, with how many times you contact the customer. If you bombard them every time they’re in, they’re going to be less likely to fill a survey out.”
Mistake #7: Employing Out-of-Sight, Out-of-Mind Attitudes.
A dealership can ill afford to leave customers feeling unappreciated, or forgotten. That’s why Marvin has made a habit of giving customers thank-you cards with gift cards inside, a gesture he feels has helped keep his facility’s CSI above 90 recently.
Providing solid customer service “is a never-ending process,” Marvin says. “It’s constant coaching, finding the right people who can be empathetic and positive with customers.”