Communication on the Service Drive

One Simple Way to Fix the Lack of Communication on the Service Drive

Comb through your surveys and customer feedback and it’s easy to find a common theme. Communication and subsequent understanding of said communication is the root of most of the problems facing us today. Comments like “I had to call my advisor”, “I never heard from them”, and “it took too long” are way too common, and so easily avoidable. Put simply, it’s a lack of communication which is the issue. And with on average only 10-25% of your customers responding to surveys, it’s sickening to think of the damage to your livelihood that is caused by poor or no communication.

If you had to guess, what percentage of incoming phone calls are status updates? How productive is an incoming status call? How frustrating is it for not only the customer but your fellow employees? Let’s look at it from a fly on the wall perspective.  The call comes into the switchboard. The customer is already frustrated because they are taking time out of their day to do your job. Even if the customer remembers the advisors name, (highly unlikely because how often do we introduce ourselves?) the call usually gets dumped to the service pool. And it rings and rings. Sometimes you get lucky and an advisor picks up. Often, it ends up ringing back to the operator who then puts them on hold and tries paging or dumping to the pool again. Minutes tick by, and your customers frustration builds and builds. How often do you buy things when you are frustrated? For the sake of brevity, let’s assume the customer reaches their advisor. Now this advisor is not able to assist in person guests on the drive.  A lot of time and effort is put into maximizing time and scheduling appointments. This throws a monkey wrench into that and can easily throw off the day. Every wonder how some days seem like you get nothing done and you didn’t see that many customers? This is one huge factor.

Mr. Customer asks their advisor what is going on with their vehicle. The advisor who typically has no structure or organization to how they operate, shuffles paperwork and bangs on the keyboard looking for information. Usually they don’t find it in a timely manner. One of two things happen from here. Either the advisor says can I call you back, or they put the customer on hold to go ask the technician. Neither are good options for anyone. More often than not, the advisor finds out there is no real information for the customer at this time and loosely commits to an update such as “I’ll call you when I know something” or “I’ll call you this afternoon”. This fire drill bears no fruit and upsets the customer, advisor and technician. Everyone involved has wasted time for nothing. Flat rate technicians and commissioned advisors love this. How can we stop this futile and very common story from happening in the first place?

As a service advisor, your success or failure is completely in your hands. How and when you communicate to customers is the key to being successful. How often during write up, do you commit to an update time? If you don’t currently do this, start now. There is a huge difference between an update time and a completion time. Only commit to things within your control. Telling them when you will update them is in your control. Telling them when their vehicle or diagnosis will be ready, not so much. With experience (and lots of mistakes) you can become very talented at providing accurate completion times. However, with so many variables outside of your control that can affect completion or diagnostic time, I suggest you focus on what you can control. So, start at write up giving every customer a time you will update them.

When you are gathering/verifying contact information is a great time to find out how the customer wants to be communicated with. All you have to do is ask. It’s important to verify/obtain phone numbers and email addresses with every customer. Once you are close to the end of the write up and have identified everything that is going to be done during the service visit, let them know when you are going to contact them with an update. Do this with all customers, regardless of where they are waiting. All customers are waiters, as in they are waiting for information no matter where they are physically. Say something along the lines of “I’m going to call/text/email you at 9:30 with an update. As soon as the time comes out of your mouth, write it down somewhere easily accessible. Consider writing the time on the back of your business card as you give it to your departing customer. This practice will significantly reduce incoming status calls.

 Work with your team, management, technicians, anyone and everyone involved to get good at providing update times that will actually have information. Observe and ask questions. While it is inevitable you will have an update call that is simply to fulfill your commitment you gave the customer, the call will be better if you have something to say that they want to hear. When and how you determine your update time to give to customers is completely up to you. I would suggest identifying times that you have a moment to contact the customer. If you have appointments coming in every 15 minutes on the hour, don’t tell customers you will call them at the top of the hour. Being a person of your word will go a long way with getting customers to trust you. Only you can determine when the best time to call is. I would not recommend lumping all updates together. Some people preach the Dr. Pepper 10, 2, 4 model. Dr. Pepper advertised in the 60’s that you should have one at those times. See the example below from YouTube.

If you utilize this method, you will be wasting a lot of your time as well as the customers. Now you have committed to updating all customers, how do you hold yourself accountable to following through on your word? Below you will find an accountability log. If you utilize something like this, own it, it can greatly help you stay in contact with your customers.

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