Usually I write about best practices or tips for growing your social media or PR presence. I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach for a two part series about a recent dealership experience. My purpose is to highlight how simple things can make a huge impact, and hopefully to help those of us who work on a daily basis in the auto industry take a step back and fine tune our day-to-day interactions with our customers.

The Move. I recently moved across country from a very populated area with a large selection of dealerships, to a less populated area with just a few. In doing so, I needed to find and set up a relationship with my local dealer to have my car serviced. I have always taken my car to the dealership for service, wanting to support the industry. I went online and did a quick search, found my dealer and made an online appointment. “Well, that was easy,” I thought. But after a couple hours and no confirmation email, a little doubt started to set in.

Fast Forward. A few days later, out of the blue, I get a call from the dealership. Finally, I thought, my confirmation. Nope! It was the Internet Sales Manager. He began asking me about buying a new car. I told him my only intention was to book a service appointment and asked if that had been done, and… oh, by the way, why are you calling me instead of service? His response made me less than happy (to put it mildly). He said that he had no idea if I had a service appointment, but that all “Internet Leads” came to him, so he was just following up. Needless to say, as someone who works day-to-day serving the auto industry, I was more than frustrated.

An Appointment… Please? After this rather disturbing conversation ended, and with no help in actually booking a service appointment mind you, I called the dealership’s main line to try and get that appointment confirmed. One call, two calls, no answer in service. Finally, after repeated attempts, I decided to just go in and ask for a walk-in appointment. I was greeted, told it would be no problem, that I could expect to wait no longer than an hour for the service I needed, so I agreed. I told the service advisor about my online booking experience – that while their website offered online appointments, it did not seem to be working. His response was to tell me that it had not worked in a while but that he did not know much about it, and seemed completely unconcerned.

I then went into the customer waiting room to await my vehicle. Tick Tock Tick Tock…. 1 hour, then 2 hours go by… still no word from my service advisor on my car. I politely checked in with him a couple of times to see when it would be done, and was told “soon”. When more than two hours had gone by I decided to take a little walk outside. There, sitting in the service drive, was my car. Apparently it had been done more than an hour ago. I checked as to why I had not been informed and the service advisor told me, rather rudely, that he had been “busy helping other customers”.  This is fair enough but there was actually only one other customer in the waiting area and the service drive had been dead. Also, this was probably not the best response to a customer that was a tad bit upset about the service. He then told me it would be another 15-20 minutes as the car had not been washed and he had to find the porter so this could be done. At that point I declined the wash and asked to just get my keys so I could leave.

The Bottom Line. I am sure that there are at least 5 ways this dealership could have made my experience much, much less painful! Little things such as using a more advanced online appointment scheduling software or a CRM to track online appointments; not treating a service appointment as an Internet lead; having a service drive tool that tells  customers when their car is ready; and above all, caring about the customer with a friendlier and more polite customer interaction. I’d love to hear from you on ways you would have improved this experience for me. In part two, I will talk about how I fell in love with a little hole in the wall mechanic shop and how their service, kindness and honesty won me over. Funnily enough, the mechanic shop is in fact more expensive. However, with my busy schedule if there is not too much of a difference, customer service and convenience often trumps price.

Sara Callahan | Carter West Public Relations




by Sara Callahan