• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

Clear communication, training can deter unhappy customers

ByJanice K. Merrill

Apr 10, 2022

A dealership customer in Southwest Michigan requested a loaner vehicle while her vehicle was being serviced. When told no because she had no car insurance, the client locked herself in her vehicle in the service lane. She only left after the police arrived.

The owner of a new Mitsubishi Eclipse took the vehicle to the service department of the South Carolina dealership, citing several mechanical issues. When the technicians could not reproduce any of the problems, the customer asked the dealership to buy the vehicle back. When the customer was turned down, he came back with a sign stating the dealership was a scam. The police were called and the man left.

A New England dealership customer didn’t like the cost of parts and labor. He brought used components from the salvage yards to the dealership and asked the technicians to give him their tools so he could do the repairs himself. The police were called to escort the client off the premises.

The past few years have seen an increase in the number of angry customers in grocery stores, fast food restaurants and even public parks. And, as the stories above show, dealership service departments have not been immune.

No one can truly identify the source of the anger. Two years of confinement and COVID-19 rules? A lack of parts leading to longer repair times? Rising prices for maintenance and repair work?

A service manager at the Southwest Michigan multi-brand dealership who requested anonymity said the root cause of the growing number of surly customers is a growing sense of entitlement.

“People demand more than you can provide and get upset when you can’t meet their needs,” he says. “It seems like they believe that if they’re mean enough to the employee, they’ll get what they want. They seem fed up with everything and they go after the next person.”

If he senses a customer is frustrated with what a Service Advisor is telling him, he will invite the two into his office to take the tension out of the front line staff and other guests and to let the customer vent.

But he says the fact that service advisors are on the front lines at dealerships and sometimes the bearers of bad news is that they leave for other jobs rather than face more abuse.