Sorry, just had to do that in my current aggravated state – yellow journalism headlines everywhere – YUK.
Sit or stand? That is a pertinent question for both customers and assistant service managers (writers). Should the ASM be standing at his or her desk with the computer (or partially seated in a tall chair or sitting down at a traditional desk)? Should the customer be seated across form the ASM during some part of the reception process, or should they remain standing? What are the positives and negatives of these alternative scenarios? Why is any answer worth wrangling over?
Who’s the Daddy?
I get a sad chuckle out of some of the newly designed service department reception digs. Opulent private office space, sit-down desks and chairs for both the ASM and the customer; or maybe an on-going too-narrow counter well behind some nebulous glass wall with an inadequate number of man doors, in an obnoxiously loud environment, far from the vehicle in question. I have even witnessed newly designed no-glass walls or windows, blinds, and doors which can’t be propped open. In fact, I have had too many “What the hell?” moments viewing some ill-trained, unknowledgeable so-called architect’s (or not) idea of the reception’s actual function or lack thereof. Consequently, rather than the facility working for the staff, the staff works for the facility or around it in any event. Sometimes, tens of thousands of dollars are lost over just a few months as a result. Who’s the Daddy here?
Old-time dealer facilities generally featured a garage door(s) facing the main street entrance and the reception process often took place in the shop, right in the aisle. Air tools were used sparingly, if available, and the noise wasn’t a major factor. Later separate drive lanes became fashionable, most just before the shop entrance, and still a part of the open space. Since daily on-going communication among the ASM staff, parts, dispatch, and technicians was vital to highly profitable production results, locating everything close at hand made the most sense.
Don’t need no stinkin’ vehicles
Moving forward, the service reception process to some who obviously never participated, morphed into a more segregated environment, and the vehicle was essentially removed as the primary access point. Offices or off-entry areas became gathering sites for customers, and even with elaborate and expensive service drive add-ons, many still parked outside and walked in, seeking someone, or anyone, to help them. Without proper instructional signage, customer education, and appropriate greeters, the drive lanes were often empty and customers then perceived they were to get processed at some type of isolated desking or office area. Some drives became more like parking lots than busy reception areas.
All the while vehicles themselves became less and less the center of the transaction, replaced by multiple forms of computer-generate-type-fed software and mountainous (almost not understandable) paperwork. Even actual vehicle mileage became guesswork by the consumer. The invented and basically useless “customer states” became the mantra of the description, supplying very little actual detail for the dumbfounded tech trying to locate an uncommon noise, drivability, trouble light, handling issue or the like. Worse yet, amateurs were hired by the buck load for the processing, compounding the entire unfortunate circumstance.
What’s the point Pabby?
What are the goals / objectives / intentions for constructing a proper service reception area? Fundamentally, the reception process and related facility design should feature these common-sense contents.
- Greet the customer at their vehicle, know their name, appointment time, and the reason(s) they are here – so Joe, make the vehicle readily accessible.
- Listen and document customer explanation(s) of any concern(s) they may have – just the beginning.
- Add to their usually minimal descriptions by exploiting key questions and the answers a competent technician needs to know to begin a realistic diagnosis – which path to follow?
- Examine, recreate, and sometimes fix the concern(s) when possible to ensure the concern exists, versus educating the customer on operational or normal conditions. Ensure the unpopular “no problem found” (NPF, sometimes NFP) is minimized – even better eliminated.
- Never guarantee warranty coverage, unless absolute, and provide a cost price range if known with the goal of moving the repairs forward quickly, rather than trying to track down the customer for authorization later.
- Present any “required maintenance” needs, both present and future. “Required” is listed in almost every owner’s manual – “recommended” is wimpy and optional. Present the important vehicle maintenance log (from the glove compartment) – the most powerful no-cost tool available promoting customer retention. A great way for the customer to get their maintenance investment back later!
- Examine the vehicle for two purposes – assess and document damage with the customer present (as in right there) and assess / demonstrate any other vehicle needs (i.e. wiper blades). Some are able to take a look under the hood too.
- Final time and money estimates, update contact time and type agreement (don’t call me), signature(s) authorization, business card exchange, thank you! Hugs and kisses.
How many Penny?
Let’s see, how many of those steps require a sit-down desk and chairs for all? How many of those steps would be made more difficult (say, impossible) by isolating the ASM from the vehicle? How many of those steps are enhanced by making software the center of the transaction? How many of those steps are important to the dispatcher, technician, parts, and ultimate production results? How many of those steps are important for developing an on-going customer / ASM relationship? How many of those steps increase honest income per repair order? How many of those steps create in-depth versus superficial customer satisfaction?
I know you are thinking that customers just want to be processed quickly, especially since we led them to believe that was the proper and thorough method. Look, customers only know what they are taught by ignorant marketing and exposure to lousy processes. Interestingly, back to the chairs, I have recently witnessed customers hanging out in these chairs bugging the soup (being polite here) out of the poor ASM trying to process other customers and endless paperwork. How do you effectively tell the customer to hit the road when you invited them there – by using a timer, electrical device, and a loud bell?
Here’s a thought
I have a handy survey for your ASM staff which I have been using to get the drift of their thinking, as well as what they are actually doing versus what they could be doing. I have them complete it anonymously and I ask for comments along the way. In some cases, I have found, especially with untrained amateurs, that they think they are doing a good job, when my tech survey reveals an entirely different viewpoint (Don’t know what you don’t know thingy). If you would like to conduct this revealing examination, send a note to Ed@NetProfitGroup.com, and put on the subject line: “Reception Process Survey – Booty Call” and I will forward it to you asap.
I don’t know, maybe I should give the survey to the customers too. It might surprise them to learn what they should be getting. But then again why set ourselves up for more scrutiny.
Author: Ed Kovalchick
Ed Kovalchick is the CEO and founder of Net Profit Inc., Alabaster, AL, an international fixed operation consulting and training firm located in Alabaster AL. Mr. Kovalchick and his firm have assisted hundreds of dealers and manufacturers, and conducted workshops throughout the world for thousands of students since 1979. He has written columns for Dealer Magazine since its inception.