I was visiting a dealership repair center recently, and while sitting in the customer lounge working on my laptop, I couldn’t help but identify with some of those “waiters”, who during my 30+ years in retail, I referred to them as just that…”waiters”. I watched and recognized emotions of restlessness, uncertainty, frustration, impatience, curiosity, and anxiety…all very disheartening to me. I listened to only hear words denoting negative connotations…”I wonder how much longer…I hope this doesn’t cost more than I anticipated…. I need to pick up the kids….Did they go to lunch?” (and more). One gentleman started pacing and went out to inquire on his vehicle a couple of times! The one significant issue I identified was lack of communication! Not one time did an advisor come by to report on the current status of their customers’ vehicles!

Those of us in the industry sometimes fail to put ourselves in the mind of the customer; however, if we relate this scenario to experiences in our own lives where we find ourselves “waiting”, consider the thought process. Waiting in the doctor’s office after the nurse checked vitals and states the doctor will be in shortly… Twenty minutes later…”Did they forget about me?” You can hear doors opening and closing around you and are convinced that the doc went in to see the wrong patient! Or how about waiting for teenage children to come home around curfew time… It is after 11:00..no phone call…our mind wanders to think only the worst has happened!  My point is: While waiting, “No News” does not equate to “Good News”! “No news” keeps the “waiter” jumping to negative conclusions and anticipating the worst possible outcome. Physiological changes in the body take place…blood pressure rises, palms sweaty, headaches and irritability set in! Is this the state of being you wish to find your customer when you do have to confront them with the “bad news”? Or even if you have “good news” for them, you will not benefit from the value of a happy customer with a fantastic experience due only to the lack of communication factor!

Keep them informed throughout the process! Touching the customer only when the repairs are finally completed is not good business! “Your vehicle has been diagnosed, we have the parts in stock, it should be another hour”, “We ran into a little snag as your bolts were corroded and difficult to get off, but I just put two guys on it and we are looking at another ½ hour”, “The part which we received was faulty, but no worries, we sent our parts driver to pick up another one and he will be back in a few minutes and your vehicle will be fixed right this visit!” (Notice, I use the words they will find on their survey in question form.)

In conclusion, don’t punish your customer who chooses to wait! I know you would much rather have the customer leave their vehicle with you for the day and operate within your schedule, not theirs! I have heard Service Managers state, It is not my fault THEY CHOSE to wait…(like they deserve what they get). Waiting cuts into that wonderful gift we have called “time” and time is more valuable these days than ever! Don’t avoid the waiter, in only creates deeper issues….communicate!

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Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on May 14, 2012 at 7:14pm

Hey Katie... Yes...seems elementary to most, but happens every day... Think about the time we leave customers hanging "on hold" as well.... 2 minutes before a ring back alert can seem like an eternity to them!!!

Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on May 14, 2012 at 7:13pm

Joe, Isn't that something...We can jump through hoops for the customer to diagnose it properly, order the correct parts, put the appropriate technician on it, quote them up front, put mats down to ensure the cars is returned clean, maybe even clean it for them...but to think the omission of a two minute update could ruin the whole survey!  Thanks for commenting...As always, I appreciate your opinion!

Comment by Katie Colihan on May 14, 2012 at 6:30pm

Ah, Nancy! I love some chat about communication. All it takes is a little bit of status update to know what's going on. It almost taps into the "fear of the unknown." Not knowing what's happening. Will I now be late to get the kids? Do I need to RENT a car because my car is so busted? 

And to think, the answer to calming those fears is communication.

Spot on! 

Comment by Joe Clementi on May 14, 2012 at 11:37am

Your on the money Nancy.  Communication is the cause of most poor CSI ratings. We assume since we said the customer will "wait" that we have an infinite amount of time.  Time without communication can seem like an eternity.  Excellent post!  I'm going to share this with my team today!

Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on May 14, 2012 at 10:42am

Thanks Sally for your affirmation and elaboration!  YES... Worst scenario would be to touch the customer and tell an "untruth"!  Again, appreciate your input!!!

Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on May 14, 2012 at 10:40am

Marsh...Appreciate your additional commentary as well!  "Avoidance" is a horrible response to a situation where a job took longer than expected.... Your technicians could have done everything in their power right...went out of their way to fix the vehicle properly this visit, and still end up with an unhappy customer and bad CSI score due to lack of communication between the customer and the Advisor! 

Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on May 14, 2012 at 10:38am

Bobby... Thanks for taking the time to comment.  I believe also that in most instances when waiting, an additional 1/2 hour seems like an eternity!  I may write Part 2 about waiting in the showroom....(bottleneck to get into F&I)...

Comment by Sally Whitesell on May 14, 2012 at 10:21am

 You are right on the money here! My Mother just went through another irritating scenario where they told her it would be about 30 more minutes, three times! So just to take it a step further make sure you set realistic wait times from the beginning and deliver true and accurate updates. Often Advisors deliver best case scenarios only to end up with a really angry client.


Comment by Marsh Buice on May 13, 2012 at 6:56pm

Nancy you are on it with this one. Waiting with no word makes the blood pressure rise. Customers are alot more understanding when you confront them and tell them the news vs they confronting you wanting to know what's up with their car. We avoid them and make things worse. When we tell them it'll be another hour-they may not initially like it, but are more understanding. Avoidance makes us look like we don't care. Great blog, Nancy.

Comment by Bill Gasson on May 12, 2012 at 9:40pm

Solid !

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