When it comes to complaints about vehicle service departments, having to wait tops the list. Many – if not most – dealerships schedule for their convenience, and not necessarily the that of the customer. At least one dealership recently profiled by Automotive News is trying to change this attitude. In 2012, Farmington, Michigan-based Sellers Auto Group hired three service facilitators at two of its stores. Their job? To ensure that customers aren’t experiencing long wait times by essentially advocating for the customer to the service department.
Many complex industries – healthcare in particular – have taken the path of hiring knowledgeable facilitators to help guide customers through processes, let them know what to expect and communicate with them every step of the way. It can help manage expectations and improve outcomes.
Since the three service facilitator positions were filled, customer complaints to the Sellers Auto Group have gone down, service department turnover has lowered and customer retention has improved, according to Sellers Auto Group chairman Sam Slaughter. In addition, because the service facilitators encourage customers to receive appraisals, more customers purchase new vehicles when they discover what their existing ones are worth.
“The facilitators have helped maintain positive reputation and consistent customer traffic in the service drive, and that’s helped our organization grow,” Slaughter told Automotive News. “We have sold about 12 to 15 cars extra per month from people who came into the service drive, with repeat customers telling us they buy Buicks and GMCs because of our service department.”
Customers are seeing wait times drop. The average amount of time customers wait to be greeted and processed during peak hours has now dropped from 2.5 minutes to one minute. Customers are made to feel they’re more than just a service invoice. Slaughter told Automotive News that a successful facilitator is someone who takes the stance of “How can I help you?” rather than “How can I sell you something?”
The ideal service facilitator is a dealership employee who understands the ins and outs of how business operates, but also has interpersonal skills and knowledge about how to increase customers loyalty.