Doctor Diesel, Uncategorized

Soapbox – What’s wrong with garage service departments?

WebSoapWell ask yourself – would you want to work in one, particularly on the reception desk? Imagine the agitated people that often arrive, with temporary loss of their car, work, and personal problems far more important than showing politeness, and explaining clearly what they’re there for, whether it’s a routine service for the car, and when they’re expecting to collect it.
So it’s often a process of interrogation which immediately puts many customers on the defensive, as they don’t like being grilled, or asked questions that they can’t answer. If you take your car in with an unidentified problem, it needs significant skills on the part of the receptionist, because if they don’t collect all the facts, then the job may not get done properly, and you’ll possibly get disturbed on the phone at work, or when you’re out shopping. Do receptionists get paid as well as they should for these necessary skills? Well, in the costly south-east, they can apparently earn the princely sum of between £22,000 and £28,000 a year, possibly with an added bonus element. Would that tempt you into a career at the service desk, working with technicians who need minimal people skills and generally get paid a fair bit more than you! It’s also a stressful job, with the “rush hour” at the start and end of every day, and often little appreciation shown by customers.

The service department is where many dealerships make most of their money though, rather in the showroom, so it must annoy service advisers that they don’t get anywhere near the £40,000 plus earning potential of many salesmen, and yet their contribution towards the business profits is probably greater. But why is there such a yawning gap between the overall performance of service departments, as viewed by customers, of the best garages and car brands and the worst? Why have dealerships from Lexus and, apparently, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, now got it so right, whilst others like Fiat, Ford, and Vauxhall get the wooden spoon? Is it the coffee and biscuits, or the pretty girls floating around? Is it even because, at the prestige end of the market, many drivers don’t actually own their cars and aren’t paying the service bills out of their own pockets? Does that make them easier to satisfy as customers, and does it help if you’ve got a good secretary who picks you up at the garage when you’ve dropped the car off, and chases up the dealership during the day to ensure that your car’s ready on time for you?

Is it possibly because their service staff are better trained, or because the best receptionists and advisers gravitate to the prestige dealerships? Is the whole process of servicing and carrying out repairs easier to do well if the cars are more reliable? Why do some marques seem to have parts supply problems, and others not? But even within manufacturer networks there are excellent garages and poor ones. Are there any answers? I’ve often written that it’s worth a short scouting trip from the showroom to the service reception desk when you’re thinking of buying a car, just to see what sort of reception you get when you declare the reason for your visit. One thing that seems beyond dispute is that it always helps a great deal to build relationships with a service department, so that you’re known as Mr Peter Smith, the manager from Yeomans, and not just Mr Smith; and if you speak to staff in the service reception with some respect and an understanding of the tough job they have, you’ll definitely have a head start towards getting better service and coming away with a smile on your face.

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