As a consumer, there is nothing more frustrating than having your car break down. No matter where or when it happens, it is inconvenient to get your car into a shop as the entire process brings about memories of substantial repair bills from previous encounters with poorly run repair facilities. This is the mindset your customers have when contacting your service department. It is at this critical time that you can gain a customer for life, or lose their business forever. Recently, both I and an associate of mine needed to take our cars in for repair. Both of us had wildly different experiences due to the quality of service, and it's not hard to figure out which one of us will become a repeat customer.
Experience #1: The Bad
A few months ago, an associate of mine had a check engine light appear in her car while on the highway, followed by a distinct sound in her engine. Alarmed, she pulled over and called around to find a dealership. After a few tries, she found one that could look at the car that day and told her to come in. So far, so good ...
Upon arrival, she and her preschooler checked in the car and were told to wait in the waiting room while the shop ran some tests to find out what triggered the engine light. After an hour in the room, she approached the service desk and asked for a timeline of the results. Eventually, after a few phone calls, the receptionist told her that they couldn't perform her tests for another few hours due to the customers ahead of her. Not wanting to spend half a day in a dealership waiting room with a toddler, she asked about any loaner cars she could use in the meantime. This dealership said they did not have a loaner car program, but could shuttle her to a rental car facility, as her home was outside of the shuttle limits. Being the only option on the table, she agreed to the shuttle and was dropped off at the closest rental car location.
After waiting in line at the rental facility, she finally received a rental car she could use while her repairs were being made. The rental she received was a newer model than her own, but lacked many of the additional features she was accustomed to. The car was also heavily worn and could have used a scrub, a vacuum, and a wipe down of the interior.
Finally, after returning home, the dealership called that evening to inform her the repair required parts to be ordered and could be fixed in about a week. Frustrated, and not wanting to take the car to another dealership, she agreed to the repair and a week later was delivered her mended car along with a delightful horror story to share with her social network and friends.
Experience #2: The Good
The next month, on my way to work, I also discovered a check engine light after starting my car. I called a few dealerships, and luckily found one that was happy to get my car into the shop that day. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a service advisor who checked me in and showed me to the service department receptionist. It was here that all my information was confirmed, and I was asked if I preferred phone calls, emails, or text messages regarding updates to my car. Seeing as I was due to be in meetings most of the day, text messages and emails seemed to be the most convenient. I was then informed that I would be receiving a loaner car while the service team looked at my vehicle, and it should be pulling up in about 5 minutes. In the waiting room I was able to make myself a cup of coffee, and shortly thereafter, I had a brand new 2018 version of my car waiting for me.
The service advisor who gave me the keys was friendly, and even took a minute to show me the added features available on this car that were not offered in my older model. I was informed where everything from the trunk release to the heated seats were located, and proceeded to drive to work where I was promptly updated via text and email as progress was made on my repair.
Upon return to the dealership, I was casually asked how I enjoyed the new car, and was quickly returned my repaired car after a visit to the payment desk. I drove away as happy as one can be after a costly vehicle repair, and now have a very positive impression of that dealership.
The Results of Quality Service:
As you can see, the outcome in each story is vastly different due to the quality of the service provided. However, the real impact of what was gained and lost by the dealerships in these encounters is staggering! Let me explain:
1. Positive vs. Negative Word of Mouth
The unfortunate truth for dealerships is that people are more likely to share their terrible experiences, rather than their wonderful ones. This all comes down to expectations. When you are disappointed by your experience, you have a good reason to share and warn people away from making the same mistakes you made. If an experience meets your expectations, well … that’s not really an exciting story and you’re less likely to share it. If your dealership can exceed a customer’s expectations, then he/she will be happy to gush over your service. It’s not hard to see in the example above, who is warning their friends away and who is promoting their new, preferred dealership.
2. Test Drives
Getting someone to take a test drive is an incredibly difficult task. If there is someone touching tile in your dealership, it should be a goal to get them into a car. So why wouldn’t you want to encourage your service customers to look at your inventory, and, better yet, take them for a test drive! In the first example, you can bet that my colleague is now clinging to her car more than ever. During her terrible “test drive” experience from the rental car facility, she was reminded how much she loves her car. Removing the features she depends on and putting her in a run-down version of her current model only made her put off buying a new car longer.
Switching to the second example, I had a two-day test drive in a brand-new car. It was wonderful! The newer version had enhanced safety features like blind spot monitoring, and comfort features like a sunroof, heated steering wheel, and heated seats! Considering this was in late January, those features were a big selling point for me at the time. It made me consider looking at a new car, when just a few days ago I was perfectly content with what I had.
3. Future Business
When I need my car repaired next, I know exactly where I’m going. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and made a terrible situation as pain-free as possible. I now expect this level of service for all my car repair needs, and I know that my dealership will deliver on my expectations. The same cannot be said for the other dealership who simply wanted a quick profit, regardless of how comfortable or convenient it was for the customer.
I know that many dealerships have not yet incorporated a loaner car program as part of their profitability and customer satisfaction strategies, but I encourage you to consider implementing one. The power of a positive customer experience can reward your dealership with major profits. With the right tools and processes in place, loaner car programs have the potential to improve customer experience scores and provide you with a new source of revenue.
If this is something you are interested in learning more about, the experts here at NCM Associates would be happy to help you get started through joining a 20 Group, scheduling in-dealership consulting, or attending an NCM Institute course.