Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Customer Service, Are You Getting It?

Last week I had to take my vehicle to the dealer for some warranty work. It’s been a while since I have been to a dealership as a customer and I was eager to see how I would be treated. I have to report that I was sorely disappointed.

I thought with all the talk about how important it is to treat the customer right, they would be on top of their game. Here’s what happened. I drove into the enclosed service area and pulled all the way to the end, since I was the only customer at that time. I got out of my vehicle and looked down the row of about 10 service advisors and wondered what to do next.

I started walking down the lane and no one even acknowledged me. I remember thinking how amazing that they could find their computers more important than an actual customer right in front of them. That’s when I spotted a female advisor. I stopped in front of her desk and waited. She finally looked up and said she’d be right with me.

I gave her my name and she wrote up the repair order. There were no other pleasantries or small talk. After she finished I had to remind her that she needed paperwork from me about my last repair and she just nodded. What if I hadn’t known to leave this paperwork….I guess I would have had to make another trip. I left with the promise that she would call later.

I have to say that I was surprised and saddened by this experience. How does a huge dealership maintain customer satisfaction this way? Later in the day I was out and decided to call to see if my vehicle was ready. She informed me that it would be ready in a half hour and I could pick it up but that they needed to order another part, so I’d have to come back.

When I got there I had to wait for her to finish paperwork, so I sat in their state of the art waiting room. It was huge. They had Wifi, coffee and you could even borrow an ipad. I was surprised that on a Friday at 4pm there were only 3 of us waiting and not much else was going on. I remember when I worked at a dealership this was one of our busiest times.

This building was obviously new and I remember thinking, they must own this so they don’t have to worry about their customers. I later found out that they do own it and that means that we as customers don’t have higher repair bills because of it. Obviously it also means they don’t have to worry about how many customers they have either by the way they were treating them.

I finally got my paperwork and left with the promise they would call me when the part came in. Three days later I called to see if they had the part…which they did. Were they going to call me? I went to pick up the part, since it was something I could do myself I went straight to the parts department.

Because I knew what the part looked like I noticed right away that part of it was missing. To make a long story short, the technician had the missing piece. What was even more amazing is that the service writer tried to tell me that everything was there and even how it should be connected. They obviously did not know what they were talking about, yet insisted I was wrong.

Needless to say they will not be getting good feedback from me. How do places like this keep customers, do they even care? If this happens to you I encourage you to ask questions, ask to speak to a manager and if you don’t feel like you’re getting treated right, go someplace else.

Service can cost a lot of money and you deserve to be treated right. If you’re a dealership or shop and think you’re treating your customers right, sit in your waiting room and listen to what people are saying. Watch what’s going on at the counter, you may be surprised. 

This whole experience made me glad that I can do my own work, but I know that most of you rely on the service department so you need to trust them. Again I emphasize, ask questions and if you can’t get a good answer from the management, at least at a dealership you can then pursue your issue with the manufacturer. Ask your friends and family where they take their vehicle. I have found that people are happy to talk about businesses that treat them right, you deserve better.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Just Wanted An Oil Change

Ok, so you take your vehicle in for an oil change and they do a "complimentary" multi-point inspection, now you have a list of services you never knew you needed. Has this happened to you?

I know that there are some shops out there that just do this to make money, but for the most part they're looking out for your best interest. Can you honestly say that you keep track of the last time you changed your antifreeze or your automatic transmission fluid? Do you even know when they should be changed?

In the back of your owner's manual there is a section of maintenance schedules. It will tell you how many miles you can go before needing to change a fluid or replace a belt. I have found that most people never even look at this.

I hear a lot of places telling people to change their oil every 3,000 miles. Well, if your manual says every 7,500, that's when you should do it. We don't need extra waste oil added to our current environmental issues and if the manufacturer recommends those intervals, then that's when you need to do them.  Do your services when they're recommended and not before, unless there is a problem.

So many of you may be thinking, do I really need an alignment or new tires, or are they just trying to get me to spend money? You can always get a second opinion from another shop or ask them to explain why you need it. A trustworthy shop will be happy to explain why your vehicle needs the work.

Once you are sure that a service needs to be done, then there is the cost factor. A great website to check is Repair Pal. By using your zip code you can see what the average cost should be for a repair in your area. This will help you decide if you were given a fair price or not. You can also call around and ask what other shops would charge to do the same repair or service.

If you have a lot of work that needs to be done on your vehicle and you can't afford to do it all at once, then you need to decide which is most critical. A brake job may be more important than a belt replacement if the belt still has some life yet. Ask them to help you categorize your list so that you can do the repairs as you get money for them.

The most important thing is to find a shop you trust. Any shop with a good reputation will be willing to help you rank the most important repairs or services with the understanding that you have a budget to work with.

Ask Patty is another site where you can get your questions answered. Over 40 women in all areas of the automotive industry are available to answer your questions and are happy to help you make the right choices.

So don't get angry if your shop finds work that needs to be done on your vehicle, be a smart consumer and get all the facts. Make sure your vehicle really needs the service according to the maintenance chart, categorize the list from most  to least important and shop around to get the best price. Many times your shop will match the cost of a competitor to keep your business.

The economy is tough right now, but we need our vehicles to run and be safe on the road. With the average age of vehicles on the road being 10 years old, people are doing a lot more maintenance to keep these vehicles in good running condition. Use the resources that are available to you so that you are an informed consumer and can make the best decisions about your vehicle.