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We had scheduled to take mine in, but at the last minute, we decided to take both mine and my wife’s in for our annual inspection. Upon arrival, I was greeted quickly and warmly. They went over what I was in for, did their walk around, and said we should be looking at $350 to $450 to get everything done. They also made me aware that they would conduct a more detailed inspection once they got everything in the back and would call within three hours to let us know about any new developments.

Precisely at the two-hour and fifteen-minute mark, I got a telephone call with an update on the status and findings. Turns out, we needed more than we originally thought. On mine, I was intending to pass on the recommendation due to age, but a two-minute conversation convinced me to change my mind and approve the $1,310 total charge. Before they hung up, they let me know to expect a call between 4:30 and 5:00 to arrange pickup. Sure enough, at 4:42, I got the call and scheduled to arrive at 5:30. They told me to budget at least fifteen minutes to get checked out since they wanted to go over everything that was done. I showed up at 5:30 sharp, and, without wasting a moment, they explained the entirety of the process and told me what I needed to do in order to keep my two Italian greyhounds quiet and pain-free after having shots, teeth cleaned, a few teeth pulled, and their ears cleaned.

The week prior to my visit to the vet, I took my vehicle to the local auto dealer where I purchased it. I pulled up, was greeted, and was told to wait by my car for my advisor. Eight minutes later and eight minutes late, he approached me, thanked me for coming in, and told me he would find out why my brake light came on. With a quick nod, he asked me to sign his tablet with my finger, pointed out where the loaner car desk was, spun on his heels, and walked away. My interaction with him was literally less than two minutes. No walk around, no inspection, no questions, no rapport building – no nothing.Knowing I needed tires and alignment – and certain he would phone to tell me so – I waited for his call. Silly me. I did get a text within five minutes of leaving the dealership that thanked me for dropping off my car and promised to deliver world-class service. That was at 7:40 am. I got busy, lost track of time and, before I knew it, it was 3:30! Nearly eight hours had passed without a single call or text. I texted him to see if he had any info. After 25 minutes with no response, I called him. The service operator assured me I was being put through to him, but I only got his voicemail. I left a message and, 30 minutes later, still had not heard from him. I texted again. Within a few minutes, he sent me a text telling me my car was ready for pickup. I asked him what they did to my car. He replied it was ready. I asked again, “What did you do to my car?”

“Brake pads,” he responded.I texted back, “Brake pads? How much?”My phone buzzed. “You can get your car anytime between now and 7:00 pm.”I tried again. “How much?”Minutes passed. My eyes were practically glued to my phone screen as I waited for a response. “$540.”I was stunned. “$540?” I texted. “When were you going to tell me that?”Buzz. “If you tell me about when you will be here, I will have your vehicle pulled up and ready to go for you.”

I picked up my vehicle, but I went elsewhere for my $1,800 worth of tires and alignment (high-performance vehicle). Now, this is one incident, but this type of service has become a regular occurrence at the local dealerships that are supposedly designed to serve me. In my local area, there are four locations that are operated by two different owners, creating a very underserved market. Why not go elsewhere, you ask? Because I have done my homework and know that the technicians at these particular shops have the most knowledge in working with the type of vehicle I drive. I am willing to put up with their ineptness to ensure that at least the work done on my vehicle is being performed by someone who knows what they are doing. Next to my wife, my three best friends in the world are my two dogs and my vehicle. They are very important parts of my life, and I only want the best for them. I just wish the guys who take care of my dogs took care of my car so that I would be guaranteed great service every time.

You know, I just don’t get it. The girl at the drive-through never fails to ask me if I want salad or fries with my burger. The servers at my favorite restaurant never fail to ask me if I want top shelf when I order a drink. The front desk clerks at the Hilton hotels never fail to ask me if I want an upgraded room at a higher price when they are available at check-in. It is amazing to me how other businesses of all types that pay their employees substantially less can get their people to do and say things that truly deliver a world-class experience, but the highly profitable dealer and their highly paid managers cannot get their highly paid frontline service people to do the same. You see, when I come in to service my car, I am not only comparing you to other dealerships and service centers; I am comparing you to all other experiences I have had.I don’t understand the disconnect. Someone spends millions of dollars on the land, millions on the building, and millions on inventory and then fails to invest the last few thousand on the most critical aspect of a successful business: training their people to deliver the world-class experience the customer expects, pays for, and deserves.

Embracing the art of good service takes a business from barely functional to outstanding. Jeff Cowan PresidentJeff Cowan’s Pro Talk, Inc. Office – 800-248-2931 Direct – 317–506-100322342 Avenida Empresa Suite 270 Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

Jeff Cowan

Jeff Cowan has been helping automotive dealerships & service centers Succeed for over 35 years.

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