Treat customers like you treat co-workers, and vice versa

Dave Koshollek
Publish Date: 
Jan 29, 2013
By Dave Koshollek

A PARTS PROFESSIONAL had told me about a situation he recently had with his service advisor.

It was mid-afternoon, and the parts pro had just sealed the deal on a $350 detachable windshield, although the sale was contingent on the customer getting it installed while he waited.

The parts pro walked back to service and asked if the installation (roughly a 20-minute task) was possible. The service adviser gruffly replied, “No f**kin’ way.”

According to the parts pro, negative responses like this were not uncommon and sales were often missed as a result.

There are two sides to every story. Maybe the service department was particularly busy that moment or short-staffed that day, or the parts cleaning tank was on fire (I actually did that once and almost burned down the store). I had the opportunity to see the service advisor in action and can tell you he was not nearly as cooperative as he could or should have been with his co-workers and customers.

Honestly, I have no patience with service staff holding dealerships hostage with narrow-minded, antisocial, antagonistic behavior. It’s not funny, and it demonstrates how juvenile some people are.

Admittedly, I was one of those sour-ass delinquents back in the day. It took a bit of growing up and teaching others who wrestle with jerks like me to see the light and smell the crap that is being dropped all over the good reputation of dealerships across the country.  
You see, it doesn’t matter how friendly the rest of the dealership is, people judge the customer service quotient of the store by the lowest common denominator. These days, it’s easy for customers to take business elsewhere if they feel they’re being treated badly. The incident cited doesn’t represent just the loss of one windshield sale; it’s the potential loss of that customer forever and maybe others if the incident is broadcast to his friends.

That doesn’t mean service advisors and technicians have to wear a white belt, shiny white shoes and smile 24/7 like a used car salesman. It means they should try to be helpful, offer solutions instead of rejections and create systems that encourage those actions. (Continued)

For example, service should:

  1. Leave a little emergency allowance time in the daily schedule so unplanned events like traveler breakdowns, a new bike PDI or an accessory installation can be performed while the customer waits.
  2. Keep at least one entry-level tech on hourly pay so someone is available to complete minor tasks that would otherwise interfere with commissioned technician duties.
  3. Make a promise to the parts department that service will mount any accessory that installs in less than 30 minutes while the customer waits, even if it’s sold at five minutes to closing. After all, isn’t it worth making a positive impression when the investment is only an extra 30 minutes? By the way, I know dealerships that make that same promise for accessories that take up to an hour of installation time.
  4. Make a list of accessories that service will install while the customer waits, so parts staff has that information at the counter and can close more sales without needing to consult with service for permission.

When you think about it, the service department is known as the home of the solutions experts — able to service, maintain, diagnose and repair vehicles to keep customers safe and happy. By applying that same strategy to requests from customers and co-workers when they need a favor, the service department’s reputation will soar, business will grow and I’ll no longer have to ask you, “Can’t we all get along?”

This story originally appeared in the Februray 2013 issue of Dealernews,