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Rock’s Rants: Waiting Customers

By Ken Rock, Customer Care Manager

The definition of service means “the occupation or function of serving.” Therefore, a service advisor’s job is to serve the customer and advise them on how to maintain the second biggest investment in their life.

But sometimes when I visit service departments, I don’t get the feeling that the customer is always the first priority. Often times the service advisors are engrossed in what they’re doing, or they’re running around doing something else while customers are waiting.

I get that you’re busy and that whatever you’re doing is important. But if what you’re doing is not directly related to taking care of a customer, it’s not the most important thing at that moment.

A customer arriving in your service lane is always the most important priority. Your job is to meet and greet customers, preferably at their vehicle so you can start an MPI.

When you greet customers, don’t resent the interruption. You should greet every customer the same way you greet a good friend who’s arriving at your home. Be genuinely happy to see them.

I know that when you’re busy, it’s natural to feel cranky and stressed. It’s okay if you feel this way but as a professional, you should never, ever convey these feelings to a customer.

If you’re having a bad day, or you had a fight with your wife or husband, or you have a health issue you’re dealing with, leave it at the door when you go into work, at least as far as the customer is concerned. The only thing the customer should know about you is that you’re thrilled to see them.

Also, never make a customer wait while you’re having a conversation with another employee, unless the issue is directly related to that customer.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes, service department employees will leave the service area empty. Recently I was working at a dealership and a customer showed up in front of me. I looked around and there wasn’t one service advisor in the room. This was at a dealership with 7 service advisors! Here’s the rule: if you need to leave the service area, even if it’s just for a minute, you need to look around and see if someone else is in the room. If there’s nobody else in that room, you aren’t allowed to leave. Period.

When you first greet the customer, confirm the reason they came in. It should be written on the RO. Verify and update their contact information, including name, address, phone and email. Review all charges and estimates. Give the customer a pickup time and make sure that the customer’s expectation for the repair is aligned with your own.

Try to insist, nicely, the customer should stay while you do the multi-point inspection (MPI). At least start it while they’re there. Tell them why it’s so important. Note imperfections on the vehicle. Lift the hood, check fluids and inspect the belts and battery terminals. Make sure you have a tire gauge and check the tread depth on every tire.

This is your customer’s vehicle, so they should be interested in what you’re doing and what you find.

The rule that you don’t keep customers waiting also applies to customers calling on the phone. Phones should be answered within two rings. Service advisors should not be allowed to answer phones during busy drop-off and pick-up periods. Many service departments I visit have phone problems. There aren’t enough staff who can answer the phone, take care of the customer, answer questions, give quotes and schedule appointments.

If your service department is having trouble achieving 100% service absorption, the problem might be because you’re missing a lot of phone calls. Try a BDC or hiring and training a couple of employees to answer the phones in your service department.

If you’re in the service business, your number one priority is always serving and taking care of customers. It’s a job to be proud of and if you do your job well, your customers will keep returning for more service.

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