The Need To Educate and Communicate


Having been involved professionally in the automotive repair and service industry since the 60’s I can comfortably say I have seen it all. Over the years a lot has changed… cars are much more advanced and technical than they once were which obviously has made a huge difference in the training and quality of professionalism. Back in the 60’s just about anyone with a few basic tools could perform almost any service or repair needed. Guys from the local gas station with names like Leroy, Bill or Jim could troubleshoot just anything the motorist needed and usually without a charge. As a result of today’s complex automobiles today’s diagnostic skills require far more experience and training than the Leroy’s Bill’s and Jim’s could ever offer.

Other than good service (a term used far too much these days) about the only thing that has remained a constant with regard to the auto industry is the consumers need to be very aware of who is advising them. Of course this topic is one we could write volumes about and the truth is in my opinion besides the fact that there is a legit reason for consumers to be cautious, what really needs to happen is that BOTH auto service/repair facilities AND consumers need to get educated. There is LOTS to learn and teach. It’s very common for a shop to have a good understanding as to what may or may not be required to keep an automobile performing at an optimum and reliable efficiency status but the consumer may not. For this reason the key word is “communication” and educating a consumer as to what might happen after words is also a key factor.
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How to get good service #4 – a rant

As a follow up to yesterday’s post about being prepared, comes today’s rant about the ignorance of some people. Many car dealerships up here in the great white north don’t have the benefit of a full blown drive through. As a result, the service advisor must head out to the parking lot to get the current mileage off each customer’s car, unless the customer has brought it in with them.
This morning, while dealing with a lineup of customers myself (due to a sick employee) someone commented as I walked past to go get a customer’s mileage that “I don’t understand why they need the mileage, it takes too long”. Of course when it was her turn to be served, not only did she not have an appointment, she didn’t know her mileage. No surprise there. Beatch!

End Rant.

There are several reasons that your chosen service center needs your correct mileage. Of course we need it to correctly advise you as to what service your vehicle is due for. Correct in and out mileage is also needed for warranty documentation if you are servicing at a dealer. The other, less obvious reason is for the protection of the dealership and the customer from unwarranted “road tests”. Let’s face it, on occasion we do come across less than honest individuals on both sides of the counter. I’ve seen employees (managers even) take customers cars for lunch, or even over the weekend. This is inexcusable and having correct mileages protects you from it happening to you. On the other hand, I’ve also had customers come in after a service and blow up because their car had been driven 1000 km since they dropped it off an hour ago. Right! Fast car huh? In that case, Fortunately I had recorded the in & out mileage personally.

Help yourself get good service, record your mileage on the way in and save the service advisor a trip. He will appreciate it & a happy service advisor is much more likely to be on your side.

How to get good service #3 – Be Prepared

This morning, due to an organizational misfunction, we opened late this morning and had about 10 customers lined up to drop off their cars when we opened the doors. Of those 10, 6 had never been here before. It was pouring rain and not a single one of those folks thought to bring their ownership inside with them. It may seem like a simple thing, but the ownership holds all the keys to who you & your car are. Of course you know who you are, but I bet you don’t know your car’s VIN number (clue, it’s that 17 digit number at the bottom left corner of your windshield). Your service advisor needs that number to enter your vehicle into the computer.

When a new customer and car is entered into the system, it takes close to 10 minutes for the average advisor. Add in 3 or 4 minutes for the advisor to run out into the rain to write the number down from the car and you now have a wet, agitated service advisor.

If you come into the dealership prepared, it will make the service advisor’s job that much easier and your visit that much quicker.

More tips on How to get good service

How to series: How to get good service for your car.

Over the years, the new car dealer service department has developed quite the reputation for lying, cheating, misdiagnosing and just plain old bad service. Of course, this reputation didn’t occur because all service departments are golden, much of it is deserved. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great people working in the service industry, but there are almost as many losers as there are superstars. Why is this?

I’m a firm believer that the lack of training is the cause of most service department failures. Training should be a no brainer, but the reality is that most new service advisors receive little if any training. A Chrysler dealer I worked for years ago said that it takes 3 years of front line work to make a real service advisor, yet my training was “there’s your computer….now write work orders.” Unfortunately, this is the training that far too many newcomers receive.

The position of Service Advisor may be one of the toughest jobs in the auto industry. The advisor has to be an organizational whiz, know the different maintenance requirements for all vehicles he sees, needs to be an effective communicator and the combined qualities of a baby sitter and a shrink. Often a flustered, poorly trained advisor will blurt out the first nonsense that comes to mind when asked a difficult question rather than seeking out the correct answer. It is human nature. The advisor doesn’t want to look like he doesn’t have the answer so he makes one up. When he is caught, the consumer feels like the scumbag has lied.

The consumer ultimately bears the brunt of this lack of training and that’s inexcusable. So what is the consumer to do? How can the consumer get solid service advice? That’s what we are going to attempt to help with in this series. Some of the advice will be common sense, some will hopefully make sense and a fair bit may be flippant and tongue in cheek. The intent for all of it will be to help you help yourself to get the best service ever.