In the far reaches of northeast Oklahoma stands a small domestic dealership that has a staff with a heart of gold. The men and women of Vance Chrysler in Miami, Oklahoma make me proud to be in the automotive business.
Their selfless act of kindness earlier this summer serves as a reminder that dealerships are not made of brick and mortar, cars and trucks, parts and accessories—no, dealerships are made of people.
Robin is a mother of three and while she was on an out-of-town trip, she noticed that her 2005 crossover was due for its next oil change. With almost 180,000 on the vehicle and going strong, Robin knows the value of preventive maintenance.
When she pulled into the service lane, Tami Robinson, the service advisor, greeted her, got the vehicle logged into the computer, and escorted her to the customer lounge. Meanwhile, lube tech Joshua Stepp was in the process of changing her oil and beginning his vehicle inspection. Frankly, the vehicle was in really good condition considering the age and mileage. About mid-way through the inspection, however, he noticed the right front hub bearing was in bad shape and the assembly was extremely loose. He promptly reported everything to the advisor who brought the concern to Robin.
Here’s how things unfolded…in Robin’s own words:
I was told during the service that I did have a bad hub bearing and that they strongly suggested I fix it. I thanked them for bringing it to my attention and declined the service.
As the service was completed, they once again encouraged me to have the bearing fixed and expressed that they didn’t feel it was safe for my children and me to be driving with the bad bearing.
It didn’t seem that bad to me (besides, it would have cost almost $400), so I once again thanked them for their concern and denied the offer.
As I was leaving, I received a call from Marshall Harp at the dealership. Marshall said, “Listen, I know you have already been advised that you have a bad wheel bearing hub, but we’ve been talking and we don’t think you realize how bad it is. Can you please turn around and come back to the shop and let us fix this for you and your kids’ safety?”
I told him, as I had before, that I did not have the finances for the repair and that I was only there for an oil change. He said, jokingly of course, “Look, we’ve done everything shy of selling you a new car or flattening your tires to keep you from getting on the highway in this vehicle.”
He went on to say, “Please come back and let us fix this for you. It’s on us…no charge. We will not feel right about this until we know that you are safe.”
I was absolutely astounded. These people really care.
I returned to the dealership; however, I was extremely embarrassed that this situation had arisen and thankful for the efforts made by the staff to keep my family safe.
Speaking of effort, it truly was a team effort. Parts Manager Robert Moran and counter-man Charles Vaughn quickly located the needed parts (which weren’t in stock at the dealership) and went to pick them up. Technicians Scott Craig, Joshua Holman, and Tom Morrison all stopped what they were doing and went to work on Robin’s hub bearing. They wrapped up the job in less than an hour.
Robinson and service receptionist Kiah Bear closed the repair ticket with a zero balance, and Robin was safely on her way back home.
Dealer Megan Vance-Ochs, general manager Derek Vance, fixed ops director James Moniz, and service manager Bill Thomas have a lot to be proud of. What a great team of human beings!
Here’s how Robin summed up the experience:
I have never witnessed such an outpouring of good-heartedness from an auto dealership. These folks hit a home run in humanity.
The automotive industry is filled with thousands of unsung heroes, from dealers to managers to lot porters. Stories like Robin’s are repeated every day across the country. Silent acts of compassion done without fanfare. People loving people. Automotive professionals reaching out to those needing help—getting it done without any thought of compensation or notice. Putting people ahead of profits. We are honored to have you folks in the automotive service family!
Rest in Peace Bill Thomas
As a sad post-script, two days after Robin’s visit to the dealership, Bill Thomas, the service manager, and his wife were celebrating their wedding anniversary in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. During their stay, Bill died as a result of a tragic accident. He was 62. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for the family of William Thomas. (https://www.gofundme.com/3x3n4s8) Bill, you will be greatly missed!
Author: Charlie Polston
Charlie Polston is an Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 34 years.