Tales from the World of After-sales: Dealerships, Digitize or Die

“Hello, you’ve reached Bob Jones of [insert major automotive brand] Dealership in [insert my hometown]. Please leave a message. Thanks.” Now why, in this technologically advanced age, would I still be calling a dealership service manager for modern after-sales service experiences? To explain, let’s go back to the beginning.

Antiquated Service Equals Angry Customers

The last time I tried to use their online appointment scheduling system, it was a fiasco. I needed some warranty repair work done, so, with no indication of how long it would take, I requested a loaner. The thought was that I could drop off my car and head back to work, but instead, upon my arrival at the dealership, I was told in shady, uncertain terms that there were no loaners available. When I explained that I had, in fact, received an email confirmation of my loaner request, the response was simply, “Our online system is corporate and doesn’t talk to our local system. So, while you requested a loaner, one wasn’t confirmed for you.”

I was flabbergasted. In 2018, I inhabit a world where everything syncs everywhere. I can access anything I care about from anywhere I have a cell phone signal. Because of this, I carefully select technology solutions based on the extent to which they connect to other technology ecosystems. So, if I use any touchpoint connected to your brand, I expect that touchpoint to be recorded and synced across your systems.

Instead, I had to wait while the repair was done, ultimately throwing off my entire day. On my way out – in an attempt to be proactive for my next repair – I asked the service manager what I could have done differently to receive better service. “How can we do better next time?” I asked. That’s when he reached down from his elevated service managers’ platform and handed me his business card, emblazoned with the name Bob Jones. “Just call me directly,” Bob Jones said.

Fast forward to the present: Call the manager? Leave a voicemail? Not the most efficient forms of modern communication, but not the worst things in the world. No, the worst thing was that he never called me back. So guess what? I’m never taking my car there again. They’ve lost me as a customer simply because their service is stuck in the stone age.

A Modern Customer Experience

Flash back to a few weeks later, when I made a service appointment for my wife’s car at a very different dealership across town, with a very different approach to customer service. Now, this dealership has a mobile app for scheduling service appointments, but because of my most recent dealership experience, and because this was the first time I was making an appointment at this dealership, I decided to skip ahead to the phone step. When I called, the customer service rep was friendly, going over the top to make sure I had all the information I needed to have a good service experience.

A day before my service appointment, I was texted by an unknown number. “Hi, I’m Steve from [insert major luxury automotive brand] Dealership in [my hometown].” “Hello,” I replied, shocked to hear from my service manager prior to even meeting him, “Thanks for reaching out.” “No problem,” he said, “Just wanted to make sure you’re all set for your appointment tomorrow. I look forward to meeting you.” Steve was a total upgrade from Bob Jones.

The next day, when I pulled into the service area, the first thing I noticed was the atmosphere. It felt like an extension of the showroom, and I was immediately greeted by someone with a tablet to check me in and guide me to Steve’s office. First, Steve recorded any concerns I had with the car and what I hoped to gain from the appointment – all on another tablet that was connected to double monitors.

Needless to say the service appointment went well (and it doesn’t hurt that I was invited to wait in a room that was filled with comfy leather chairs and a cafe serving freshly-made sandwiches, baked goods and an assortment of free beverages). They ran through my multiple service requests, and when I asked for a discount, Steve was even able to get approval from his manager, right then and there.

The next day, I received both calls and emails asking if I was satisfied with my service experience, and I even received a text message from Steve when I hadn’t completed the survey for a couple days. It was clear to me that this dealership was laser-focused on providing the ultimate after-sales service experience. And while I may have spent more money than I did with Bob Jones, the upgraded service justified the cost.

Digitize or Die: It’s Your Choice

So, what ultimately made the difference for me, the customer, in the end? Why will I continue to pay more than I have to at the latter dealership, and never return to the former? The answer is simple: after-sales service experiences matter.

One dealership cared enough about me as a customer to invest in the latest technology – as well as how to leverage it effectively. One didn’t. One dealership saw the customer experience as something they actively have to shape through repeated and appropriate avenues. One didn’t. Yes, one is a luxury brand, so the expectations are higher. But, when it comes to digitization in the modern age of technology, it doesn’t matter. They’ve chosen to get it right.

From having the right service parts in stock, to treating each customer as a unique individual with unique needs, modern organizations must continuously improve their after-sales service experiences if they are going to survive. Digitization is no longer forward thinking – it’s the new standard. Service starts at the very first interaction and continues throughout the entire experience, and shortchanging investments in technology will ultimately leave antiquated organizations in the dust.

Am I picky? Yes. Do I have high expectations? Maybe. But this isn’t about me. It’s about the legions of customers who have had a bad service experience and then disappear into thin air, never to be seen again. What if you could transform your after-sales service experiences so dramatically that not only would you stop losing customers, you’d start gaining new ones instead? If you know that embracing technology and focusing on the customer experience are the answers, then why not start today?