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Richard Holland

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Service Dilemmas: What Would You Do? The Results


In a previous article, I provided two very real scenarios that occurred right before Memorial Day weekend and asked readers how they would have handled them. For convenience, I’ve repeated the scenarios again with the actual outcomes attached:

Scenario #1:

A customer brought their vehicle into the dealership the Friday before Memorial Day weekend for a routine oil change. As part of the check-in process, the service advisor rolled down the window to prevent the keys from getting locked in the vehicle. The customer waited for their vehicle while the dealership changed the car’s oil.

Once the car was completed, the service advisor returned the keys to the customer. The customer got into their vehicle and discovered the window would not roll up. The technician took a look at it and discovered that a piece needed to hold up the window had broken (not the window itself). The dealership did not have the part in stock and could not get one. Therefore the technician installed plastic over the empty window frame, so that the customer could drive it.

The customer was irate and blamed the technician for breaking the window. Like many other people, the customer was heading out of town for a road trip over Memorial Day weekend and, due to the window, felt he could not do that. He posted his dissatisfaction on the dealership’s Facebook page and used other social media platforms to vent his frustration.


In this scenario, the dealership had an active social media presence. Shortly after the customer posted their complaint, the dealership employee in charge of social channels contacted both the service director and the dealer and alerted them to the situation. The dealer responded to the customer on social media with contact information and took the conversation offline. No one was at the dealership itself due to the holiday weekend. The customer had also already left, so there wasn’t an opportunity to remedy the problem at that point in time. After the holiday weekend, the dealer spoke with the customer and made arrangements for the customer to bring their vehicle back in and they fixed the window free of charge, resulting in a happy customer.


Scenario #2:

A separate customer received an oil change before heading out on a long trip from Florida to Illinois, by way of Kentucky. After the service, the customer proceeded on their trip.

About three hours short of their first stop in Louisville, they heard a loud pop and smoke started to come out the back of their vehicle. The customer immediately pulled over and, upon inspection, noticed oil pouring out from under the car. As the car only had 13,000 miles on it, and was under manufacturer warranty, the customer called roadside assistance and had it towed to the nearest dealership.

Unfortunately, by the time the customer arrived, the dealership was 15 minutes from closing and all the bays were full. The dealership could not service the car until the following Monday, because they were closed over the weekend. Due to the holiday and a large local music event, the customer was forced to pay inflated hotel rates, rent a car, and incur living expenses while waiting out the weekend.

Come Monday, the dealership discovered the drain plug on the vehicle was missing. Fortunately, there was no engine damage whatsoever. The customer proceeded to call the original service center, explain the situation, and claim that the center should reimburse them for their incurred costs, due to the drain plug being reinstalled incorrectly. The total customer requested $724 total, which included the expenses at the dealership they took the vehicle to, the car rental, and the nights they had to spend at the hotel.


In this case, the service manager at the original repair facility—a well-known chain of independents—offered to pay only for the repair conducted at the dealership, and nothing beyond that. He believed that there was no evidence that the drain plug was installed incorrectly and claimed that the couple would not have been able to make the trip from Florida to Kentucky had the plug been loose. In addition, he stated that his dealership offered roadside assistance. He claimed that had the couple called them, they would have towed them to a local location of their chain where the vehicle would have been repaired, as they were open on Saturdays. As it currently stands, there has been no further resolution.

Here we see two very similar situations with different resolutions. In both cases, the repair facility made mistakes. In both cases, customers were inconvenienced. However, in scenario #1, the dealership chose to take a more customer-centric approach in an effort to avoid further incidents and make the customer happy. That customer will almost definitely return for future vehicle service.

In the second scenario, the repair facility chose to pay for only the repair, denied any fault and refused to do anything further to resolve the situation. The customer was a local and had had previous service work done at the facility. This customer would more than likely have continued to service their vehicle there in the future. But that is no longer the case. If you consider the lifetime value of a customer, in all likelihood the chain has lost more than the $724 the customer was seeking in reimbursement—and will perhaps even lose business from the negative word-of-mouth that customer may provide.

Sometimes, it’s more important to do the right thing for the customer regardless of whether you feel at fault. Customer retention is the foundation of all business. Focus on creating an excellent customer experience and fixing mistakes—whether you believe you made them or not—and your efforts will go a long way towards keeping customers and building business. In the end, it’s easier to hold onto the customers you have than to replace lost ones every month.

Mark Miller
I think this shows the different mentality of a dealership vs. and independent. Having worked for both, I know that the expectation is the dealer has deeper pockets, but that is no always the case. I agree with the independent that there were alternatives to get them involved from the immediate point of failure, however, they need to address the issue that they are part of a chain and therefore cast a light of doubt on an entire chain of stores.

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