Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2014   by Auto Service World


In the world of unintended consequences, some recent research by J.D. Power and Associates has to rank highly, when it revealed that customers who visit service facilities less often have a worse experience than those who visit more.
For years, automakers and those who supply them have worked diligently to lessen the consumer’s dependency on service. The thinking behind this would seem obvious: if consumers regularly declare that taking their car in for service is akin to a visit to the dentist, then reducing the number of painful visits should be welcomed, leading to happier customers and a better ownership experience.
The trouble is that it’s not quite working out that way, because simply reducing the number of service visits doesn’t really address the real reasons consumers dread them: cost.
As noted in the survey, average visits per year have dropped from 2.9 to 2.4, which really means that an increasing number of car owners are only seeking service twice a year instead of three times. In addition, there are also cars out there that have a recommended service interval of once a year, which would drive this average down even farther.
To make this continually lengthening service interval a reality has involved a whole new level of technology introduced over the past few years, from the automakers’ own engineering departments as well as those of their suppliers. Those who create the electronics, drivetrain systems, engine parts, lubricants, and coolants, to name just a few, have all complemented vehicle manufacturers’ own developments, together pushing the need for regular service farther and farther down the road.
This is an admirable goal, and in keeping with our theme here, has succeeded in making consumers dread service visits more than ever.
As we are all learning, the longer you wait, the more will need to be done, and the more it will cost. And, in advance of each visit, they will likely also worry a lot more about what that bill might be.
It puts the aftermarket into a difficult position. In order to build the satisfaction level of its customers, a service provider has to communicate the benefits of more frequent visits while the tide of technology and service practices is turning the other way.
Doing this effectively requires some special communication skills, training, and tools. Too often these are not present in the technician/owner; and many service advisors have not been afforded the proper training or tools to be effective in this role. Too often the service advisor is looked upon by owners as a necessary evil, and by technicians as a second-class member of the team.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It has been shown time and time again that those with effective, trained service advisors have higher average invoices and higher satisfaction scores from customers.
Paradoxically, the current trend of sliding service occasions has dramatically ramped up the importance of that service communication role.
This is not a new issue. Many of us in the industry have been working to get more shops to understand the importance of the service advisor for years, and to hire, train, equip, and compensate them accordingly.
Wouldn’t it be funny if it were the increasingly complex technology that pushes our technicians to the limit, that actually caused shop owners to finally understand the critical importance of the service advisor?
Talk about your unintended consequences.
—Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

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