“If they’d have asked me to buy, I’d have said yes!” These are the words of a single mom who had just left a dealership service center. She had the time, she had the money, but most of all, the technician said she had the need for preventive maintenance—but the moron at the service counter dropped the ball. (Forgive me, but the older I get the less tolerant I am of fools.)
This service experience occurred late last year and was the latest chapter in a six-year ownership cycle. More on this later; for now, let’s rewind to the beginning…
Nichole is a graphic designer for one of the top companies in the mid-west. She’s a savvy, articulate, professional, and while she’s no gear-head, she does understand the basics of automotive maintenance. Unfortunately, much of this knowledge came as a result of incompetence at two dealerships and a tire store. Here is her store:
Nichole was so proud of her brand new 2011 GMC Terrain when she drove it off the dealer lot in November 2010. That same year, she relocated to another part of the country and started searching for a good doctor, dentist, dry cleaners, and automotive service center. Let’s pick up the story in Nichole’s words:
“Ever since I moved, I have had my vehicle serviced at an independent garage because it was close to my work. On one service visit, I took my vehicle in to the shop and was informed that the battery was so corroded that the entire cable and connection had broken off and needed to be replaced. I had been taking my vehicle there for several years, every 5,000 miles, for an oil change and they never recommended a battery service (or any other maintenance service). I found it hard to believe that the amount of corrosion they found on my battery developed in one 5,000 mile interval. I felt like the fact that they never noticed it or mentioned it was negligent and I totally lost trust in their ability to keep my vehicle in working order. After I had to pay for a replacement battery and the entire cost of replacing the cables, and figure out how to get by without a vehicle for a few days, I decided I wouldn’t be going back to this independent garage.”
Sell the service NOW; offer her a shuttle ride to work, put her in a loaner vehicle, or offer her a rental car… but for heaven’s sake, ask for the business.
“I started taking my vehicle to a GMC dealership for my oil changes. I was familiar with this dealership because I had actually been there four times in the past five years for minor warranty issues and recalls. One day, my vehicle overheated on the way to work. The dealership told me the water pump had to be replaced. They charged me $145 per hour for 7.5 labor hours and $300 for parts. After $1,500 and three days later, I had my vehicle back. After doing some research, I found out that I was most likely overcharged. Prior to this failure, I was never offered a maintenance service for my cooling system. I felt like I wasn’t treated fairly, so I won’t be going back to this GM dealership, either.”
“As a single working mother, I don’t have an extra $2,000 to take care of catastrophic failure. I also don’t have the time to spend at a service center for repair and it is time consuming to coordinate alternative transportation. What I really want most out of my service experience is for someone to take care of my vehicle so that it keeps operating at peak efficiency. When I take my car in for an oil change, I want someone who knows what they’re doing to check everything out and look for potential problems so that I’m not caught off guard by something breaking when it could have been prevented. I want them to be honest with me about what services I need and I want them to treat me fairly.”
Wow, pretty eye-opening, isn’t it? By the way, the vehicle currently has 100,000 miles on the odometer; that that means she has had 20 oil changes—some at the tire store, some at the GMC dealership. In addition to that, she has made four additional visits to the dealership for warranty issues. Other than oil changes and tire rotations, what other service was she offered over the past 24 service visits? None!
Words escape me as I try to communicate to you how incredulous I was when I heard her story. It kinda makes me want to take the managers of these two places out behind the dumpster and slap the fire out of ‘em. (For those of you not from Oklahoma, that’s just a figure of speech that means these managers need a written reprimand and a clear understanding that if it happens again they’re gone.)
Now, let’s fast forward to December 2016. After all she had been through, I wanted her to experience how a truly “do-it-the-right-way” dealership would treat her, so I sent her to a local dealer with a great reputation in her community. Sadly, they did even worse. She went in for an oil change and tire rotation. The technician did a wonderful job of filling out the MPI form. He recommended an air filter, cabin air filter, fuel injection service, and transmission fluid exchange. The tech even meticulously priced everything out at $725. So what happened?
Nichole said, “This place was newly remodeled, bright, open, and fresh. The waiting area was clean, comfortable, and had a nice TV. The advisor was very nice; the paperwork was very neatly written and easy to understand. The advisor reviewed the inspection, took my payment, and directed me to my car which was parked right by the door.” She continued, “He reviewed each item the technician had recommended and said I should have that done on my next service visit.”
Whoa! What? He reviewed the MPI at the end of the transaction and said to do it next time! That is insane. Sell the service NOW; offer her a shuttle ride to work, put her in a loaner vehicle, or offer her a rental car… but for heaven’s sake, ask for the business.
This dealership has spent millions of dollars to upgrade their facility—and it is gorgeous. The techs are well trained to do a complete inspection. The coffee is fresh, the donuts are delicious, and the magazines are current. And with all that in their favor, they lost money on a discounted oil change and chased off $750 worth of business.
“If they’d have asked me to buy, I’d have said yes!” She isn’t going back.
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.