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LIFT from CFS > Best Practices > An Undercover Service Department Story

An Undercover Service Department Story


In the world of the automotive industry, we are always being evaluated. Whether it’s through customer or manufacturer surveys, this feedback is incredibly valuable and, in some cases, affects dealership revenue.

Just like everyone, I patronize dealerships for my vehicle service. I was concerned because my new vehicle with 16000 miles on it had some noises coming from the front end and I wasn’t sure if it was the engine, tires, or something else. My friend owns a nearby dealership and told me to come in. While my vehicle was being serviced we could go to lunch. But I should not tell anyone that I knew him, just mystery shop and provide feedback. I’m a busy guy, so I scheduled a service appointment online. I was surprised as I did not receive any confirmation or acknowledgement of my appointment at all.

With my travel schedule, I was unable to make a good appointment on a Monday or Tuesday. So, at 10:45 am on a Friday I arrived at the dealership and found myself instantly disenchanted as I sat in my vehicle, unwelcomed, by service advisors staring at their computers ignoring me.

I finally approached a service advisor who accompanied me to my vehicle, where I explained my concerns and suggested that a quick tire rotation might fix the problem. The service advisor asked me whether I’d be waiting, or need a shuttle. It was 10:45 and I explained that I need to leave by 1:30pm. He said that it was not going to happen. The dealership was slammed and he could not even get a tech to look until the next morning. A loaner car was not offered and he did not even offer to at least try a quick tire rotation. Instead he said, “You should really schedule your service on Monday early in the morning.” He gave me a tutorial on how to better schedule my appointments. Rather than get me in for a quick 20 minute tire rotation — scoop me in and service me — he sent me away and blamed me for poor scheduling.  I told him that as I had to travel next week I guess I would just have to leave. And he let me go.

So, I left and I could not find a spot in the dealer’s parking lot, as it was so busy. Eventually, I parked and went back into my buddy’s office. I did end up getting my tire rotation which fixed the problem and I went on my merry way.

The Service Director and I walked the lot and he explained to me how the massive amounts of recalls are challenging the efficiency of their service drive process and the customer experience.  The service advisors have plenty of business with all these recalls coming in – they are buried with enough business to keep them plenty busy, have no room on the lot and are jockeying three cars deep.

This got me to thinking about how, when business is good, some dealers act as though they do not need any new customers coming in. But, that is exactly when they SHOULD care. The fact is, you do not know when another recession will hit, or when your business will suffer. If I were a normal customer, that dealership may have lost my business forever.

These days, there is a huge amount of fantastic service lane technology available that should be used in these busy dealerships. I see it employed more and more now with tools like lane tablet systems that allow the customer to remain with the vehicle for a smooth check in; electronic welcome monitors displaying customers’ appointments; and mobile tools that allow customers to review their RO Estimates and pay online before they pick up their vehicle, which ultimately reduces waiting time.
The technology is out there to make things so much better. For example, several of the CRMs like ELEAD1ONE, and Dealersocket have great technology to improve the service drive process. MyKaarma, who we work with at CFS, is a customer interaction software that builds convenience into the service experience of automobile consumers, while simplifying the lives of service advisors.

This type of technology is exactly what today’s customers are using themselves, and now expect to see in businesses they patronize. I look at customers in the waiting room – they all have their heads down viewing some sort of electronic device. Increasingly they prefer the speed and convenience that technology provides without the necessity of any human interaction. For example, I am an avid user of Silvercar, which allows you to rent a vehicle, unlock your silver Audi rental car, and return the car without having any human interaction; no counter visits, no signing anything, and of course no waiting!

Dealers now have the technology to better service and interact with the customer so the customer knows what is up next and what to do. I look at all this available technology and everything that is going on and it is sad that this dealership could not get my vehicle done on time. And, that they did not even have my appointment in their scheduling system, and there was no welcome for me at all.

I’ve been there and know what it’s like when you pull into the service drive and it is mayhem, with 5 or 6 customers waiting in their vehicles for attention. The only thing that will help a dealership improve and manage that situation is technology which helps get the customer in and out quickly, and which also provides a smoother overall customer experience.

Today’s automotive service customers are all NASCAR drivers stopping in for a pit stop. They demand fast and responsive service for their vehicles. Competition in the vehicle service arena is fierce, with an abundance of vehicle service options which can easily result in defection to a competitor.

Consider doing your own mystery shop. Look at your service department as a customer would. Then, look at using available technology and make the necessary adjustments to help give customers the best possible service experience at your dealership, to help attract more customers and keep loyal ones coming back.




About The Author:  Dan has 20 years experience selling and managing technology/marketing solutions in the auto industry. Managing Partner and EVP of MyCustomerData, 8th employee and key team member building Who’sCalling; Corporate track record at BMW, Mini, MB, Volvo, FCA, Autonation, Sonic, Penske, Asbury and Van Tuyl dealer groups. BA, Eastern Illinois.  Dan also sits on the Board of Directors for Providence Speech and Hearing Center, a nonprofit organization providing services to the speech and hearing impaired of Orange County, California


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