People forget that although I am an automotive professional of 13 years, I've bought cars from other dealerships and I've serviced with other service centers. I've worked specifically for 5 brands across 3 dealerships, been a Lube Tech and Sales Manager for an independent repair facility but I've been a customer too.
In my own life I don't put on the eyes of a customer often enough but today I had to out of necessity.
My VW Toureg Diesel demo was giving me messages about an exhaust additive called adblue. If I didn’t add it soon, my car told me it would not start after driving 100 miles.
So without the time to drive to our VW of Gainesville store I found myself at a competitors shop near my house at 7:45 (15 minutes after open) to find my remedy.
The Service Drive was empty and I was promptly greeted by a “trainee," a former sales guy named Chris. Chris was fairly attentive and asked fairly standard questions related to my needs.
“Do you have an appointment?” he asked. Sitting in my customer shoes I was a bit taken back. For some reason what I really was thinking he was telling me was because I wasn’t an appointment I would not be a priority even though their service drive was empty…but we kept moving forward. He mentioned because their “system was down” he wasn’t quite sure if I could even be “written up” at that time. Again was this negative information necessary for me the customer?
Chris then took me into to meet an ASM where we repeated the exact same process we had outside. Literally we reviewed every question I was already asked. What shocked me here was:
- A lot of what Chris had understood from our conversation was incorrect. This caused me again to have to repeat myself which was irritating.
- When I arrived at the ASM desk he did not welcome me or look up or introduce himself. Once he did engage though he seemed to want to help. He never gave me his name.
- "Go to parts and ask for 2 bottles of adblue and I will add it for you” he said.
I was not walked to parts by Chris or the ASM. When I finally found the retail parts counter no one was there. There was a bell that said “ring for service.”
I rang the bill and sat for about 2 minutes which felt like 15. I stared past the desk into a glass sliding window where I imagine either warranty or accounting staff stared back to me. I engaged with the lady in the window with a "Good Morning" and she too voiced her frustration at the “system being down" and shook her head.
Finally someone came to the parts counter. I told him what I needed and he asked me who I was dealing with in Service. I couldn’t say of course because the ASM never gave me a name. He said, “Our system is down so I am not even sure I can sell you what you need right now.” Things were off to bad a start. This happens in our own stores (I'm sure) but I was shocked at the negative emotion and lack of “can do” attitude that had stricken the entire service staff. There was hardly a customer in their lounge; had they never discussed how life would look in the case of their DMS having issues?
He finally returned with the two jugs of “adblue” and said “I guess I can hand write a ticket to get you moving.”
Things start to get better. I paid cash and left promptly and returned to my car. William the ASM (I'd finally asked for his name) was already at my car with the spare removed and various nothings from my trunk removed all prepared to add the adblue (which is added under neath the spare tire). Excellent this guy is going to get me moving. He added the adblue and we made small talk. My experience was ending nicely. William hustled to get the spare back into place and showed me how I could do this myself if I ever needed to moving forward. He explained to me the benefit and he helped me load my things back into the car.
What started as a 2 star experience ended a 4. But think of all the little tweaks that would of had me glowing about this place…
-If a customer has an appointment shouldn’t you know that before they have to tell you?
-Are there points in your "needs analysis" where a customer is having to be unnecessarily repetitive?
-Always introduce yourself and give instant eye contact and attention to your customer
-Don’t appear to be disengaged or lost in a screen (computer, tablet or phone) when they arrive. If you have to tell them you’ll be right with them at least have introduced yourself and made eye contact. It’s reassuring.
-Always walk a new customer to where they are going. Even better yet wait with them until someone answers the button ring or they are handed off to the proper department.
-Things happen in business. Systems go down. Don’t place additional burden on your customer when there is an issue. They don’t need to see you sweat until they do! Be prepared (or mad at yourself that you are not prepared) in these instances. Know where you are going with the ball when it’s thrown to you so to speak.
I tried to tip William 20 dollars and he wouldn’t accept. I appreciated his hustle and instant attention, though it got off to a slow start. I’d go back there and see him if I needed help.
I was in and out in less than 30 minutes.
(Full disclosure - at every point of communication at the dealership I explained to them that I was in the industry. My demo is an untitled vehicle and I had a dealer tag on the car --- sooner than later they would have found this out on their own)