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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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Improving Service CX – Addressing ‘Longer than Expected’ Wait Times

The customer experience in the service department is perhaps the most crucial place. Customers are coming in to pay an invoice for something that’s almost always intangible – an oil change they can’t see or taking your word for it that their brakes are actually worn out, for example. At least in sales, they can put up with an off-base experience because they’re getting a vehicle out of it.

Last week, we mentioned that the top pain point service customers have is that “service took longer than expected”. Three in ten complainants say this is their top issue, which means that it’s a serious concern. Let’s talk about what that means, and how it can be addressed to improve CX.

What ‘Service Took Longer than Expected’ Means

At first glance, the phrase ‘service took longer than expected’ seems to sound like the visit was unreasonably long. That can often be the case, and I’ve heard time and time again (not to mention personal experience) that there’s no reason an easy oil change should take an hour and a half or two hours. But there’s more to ‘longer than expected’ than that.

Having spent more than a decade at the service desk, it almost always comes down to communication, not the actual time spent from drop-off to completion. The phrase indicates that there was an expectation that wasn’t met. And whose job is it to guide a customer’s expectations? The service advisor.

At some point in the process, the customer developed an expectation that their car would be completed within a certain time frame. And when the minute hand passed that mark on the clock, expectations weren’t met any longer.

Now, granted, it’s often the case that customers have their own idea of how long a service visit should take before they arrive. Still, while the appointment is being set and during check-in at the service desk, the service advisor is responsible for correcting that expectation as they communicate.

How to Adjust Expectations

There are a few strategies to use when setting the customer up for an accurate timeline for their visit.

Communicate an accurate time frame according to shop flow. I hated to disappoint customers and was always overly optimistic for ready times. It resulted in frustrated and impatient customers, though, more often than I would care to recall. Be realistic about how long a visit is going to take so the customer can properly structure their day.

Be diligent in getting it done. Dispatching is probably computerized in your shop, but sometimes priorities get skewed. If it looks like your customer’s vehicle is slipping through the cracks, get on your foreman/dispatcher/manager and have it assigned. It’s usually up to the service advisor to first write the RO properly so it’s dispatched accordingly, but things happen.

Don’t be too conservative. Next to customers frustrated with a visit taking too long, there are customers who get ticked when their vehicle is ready much earlier than expected. Perhaps they rented a car when they wouldn’t have needed to, or they rescheduled an important meeting to accommodate a service visit. If two hours is sufficient, don’t tell them four hours ‘to be safe’.

It’s an Imperfect Metric

Unfortunately, time is a perceived commodity. Likewise, expectations are a personal thing. You can’t control it all, but you can do your part. As a service advisor, there’s one overriding factor that will help mitigate unnecessary survey responses of ‘service took longer than expected’ – communication.

Something went sideways in the shop? Let the customer know it may be an extra hour. A tech smashed their finger and is headed to the doctor? Adjust expected completion times with your customers. Their vehicle went in early? Text them that you may have it ready sooner than you first thought. Just communicate.

It’s all summed up in one thing: communicate with the customer. It’s a lesson I wish I would’ve learned earlier in my career.  

R. J. James

Good Back-to-Basics to improve the Service CX: Set & Manage Expectations, Watch the Workflow, and Communicate.

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