Independents can take a page from how dealerships work to keep car owner coming back
Let’s get one thing straight, a bit of hard-nosed honesty that should be stated right out front: the days of there being a natural enmity between dealer-based service operations and independents is over. There are too many cars on the road today for any one service operation to handle, regardless if your operation is an independent or a dealer operation. So everyone has to work together to make sure people are happy with their vehicles and with the service they receive when they come into the bays, be it for something as simple as an oil change or for a major transmission repair.
Another bit of hard-nosed reality: we can all learn from each other, taking the best practices that we have and adopting them to our own service operations.
Charles Carvalho, director of fixed operations with Brian Jessel BMW in Vancouver, one of the largest BMW retailers in Canada, places a high premium on customer satisfaction; from the moment the vehicle owner books a service appointment to when that owner receives the keys back from the service advisor and drives away. It sounds easy, until you find the service operation at Brian Jessel BMW handles on average some 135 vehicles every day across 19 bays, with an additional five-bay express operation on-site.
“I have a staff of about 170 people, with 100 falling under the parts and service department, and we have 39 technicians with 10 apprentices,” Carvalho said. “All of our technicians are Red Seal technicians and four are Master Technicians.”
Carvalho added the service department of Brian Jessel BMW also does a brisk business with many local independents that rely on the expertise and fast service his team can provide in supplying and delivering BMW OE parts.
Carvalho admits that today’s parts market is competitive, with an emphasis on price; and there is now a wide-range of parts suppliers that people can source parts from, with some suppliers specializing in foreign nameplate parts. But his operation has a winning edge: his team’s deep knowledge of all the parts categories in the BMW brand and his team’s ability to answer an often daunting array of technical questions that comes to them.
“And we have to be honest, there are parts and parts categories that we carry that others cannot get access to,” Carvalho added. “We deal in those areas that others can’t get from someplace else. But this is the important thing: we want and work hard to keep people happy and satisfied with their BMW vehicle. One way of doing that is making sure technicians have access to the parts they need. For many vehicle owners, their vehicle came with original equipment and they want original equipment when their vehicle comes in for repairs or routine maintenance. And we also offer something many other aftermarket parts makes cannot, a two-year part warranty; and if the work is done in our shop, there is a two-year parts and labour warranty.”
Quality parts and warranties are just one part of the service operation. It is the service a vehicle owner gets that is just as critical, maybe even more so; and it starts at Brian Jessel BMW with the booking of the apportionment, which can be done online. The online booking allows people to even reschedule appointments and can provide, for returning service customers, a history of the service work on the vehicle. While online booking provides a great deal of flexibility to the vehicle owner, Brian Jessel BMW also places a high-premium on pre-booking appointments. Carvalho added the service operation uses a comprehensive customer relationship database to help vehicle owners know the service intervals of their vehicles and to match appointments with both the recommended intervals BMW has for its cars and with the driving habits of the owners.
“When they arrive their appointment is verified and they are introduced to the service advisor they will be working with,” Carvalho said. “The service advisor will speak with them to find out what the problems are with the vehicle, will walk around the car with the owner to see if there is any damage that needs to be dealt with, and do such other inspections as checking tire wear.”
Once the vehicle has been inspected and the work to be done confirmed, it is taken by the service staff into the service bays and to the assigned technician. The bays are widely spaced with lots of natural light allowing the technicians to work in comfort, with easy access to all needed tools and diagnostic equipment. The bays are cleaned every day.
These 19 bays are reserved for service work that requires two-hours or more to be done. For work that requires less time, such as an oil change or fluid flush, the work is sent to the five express bays. This managing of appointments allows the operations to run smoothly and to return the vehicle back to its owner that much more quickly.
Carvalho said Brian Jessel BMW also places a high premium on the training of its technicians. Those wishing to obtain the Master Technician designation are actively supported by his team throughout the rigorous examination and training involved. The Master Technician designation can take up to seven years to complete and involves both online and hands-on training at BMW University. The hard work is worth it.
“BMW, as a car company, focuses very heavily on advanced technologies and we need highly skilled technicians and highly skilled certified technicians to help diagnose and fix the kinds of issues that can arise in their vehicles. When a technician achieves that Master Technician designation, we give them a travel voucher. It is a lot of hard work and a lot of time needs to be dedicated to achieve that designation and we want to reward them for that commitment.”
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