New cars have more technology packed into them today, and it’s only increasing. Think about this: the world’s first supercomputer, the CDC 6600 in 1964, had just 982kB of memory and weighed in at 12,000 pounds. 55 years later, your smartphone weighs less than one pound and packs thousands of times the CDC 6600’s computing power into its tiny case. Imagine all the tech that can and does fit into a car. It’s mind-blowing.
All that technology is great to have, from convenience and comfort to saving lives through advanced safety systems. But in the service department, these high-tech features are the cause of many frustrating conversations, no fault found diagnoses, and poor CSI surveys.
What’s meant to enhance a customer’s car ownership experience becomes a sore spot. I’m thinking of a friend who doesn’t know how to operate her new Mercedes-Benz’s Active Parking Assist and doesn’t trust her Adaptive Cruise Control. Are those value-added and safety features doing anything to enhance her ownership? Not at all. If anything, it makes her think about buying a different brand.
Customers like my friend aren’t unintelligent. However, she thinks there’s something wrong with her Active Parking Assist system. And what I can guarantee you is that she’s going to make an appointment at the local dealer, drop her car off in the morning, and become frustrated that there’s nothing to fix. It’s working as designed (I can safely assume).
It’s an education problem.
When a customer drops off a vehicle for a technology-related complaint, the service advisor has to assume they’ve been taught how to use their car’s features. Unless there’s a glaring bit of the conversation that leads them to think otherwise, you must give the customer the benefit of the doubt, right?
Same goes for the technician. If the feature or system is functioning as designed, it’s their job to declare it an NFF diagnosis.
The ball has been dropped earlier on, back when the car was bought and delivered. The good news is that the service department has an opportunity to turn this negative experience into a positive and build on their trusting relationship with the customer.
While I worked for a GM franchise previously, I was the Certified Technology Expert in the service drive. When customers or staff had questions, I was responsible to have the answer or find it. I certainly wasn’t used often in that role but it could have been amazing.
It would be easy enough to have the Tech Expert come over to the customer’s car and see how they’re using the tech feature to determine whether it’s a user issue or a fault. 9 times out of 10, maybe closer to 10, it’s user error. The service department can avoid tying up a service advisor, a technician, and the customer’s car for the day by spending a few minutes digging deeper, even if they shouldn’t have to.
I’m a huge advocate for Car Care Clinics. I think dealers should advertise Tech Clinics in the same way for their customers. Contact a car buyer a month after their purchase and invite them to the Tech Clinic to make sure they’re using their vehicle’s features to their full potential. Have staff on hand for one-on-one advice and even to take test drives to get customers comfortable with ADAS features.
Whether it’s through Tech Clinics or a Certified Technology Expert in the service drive, the service department can build trust with the client base and solidify their role as brand experts and ambassadors. That can only do positive things for the ongoing customer-dealer relationship.