Best Practices for Managing Customer Expectations in Fixed Operations

Best Practices for Managing Customer Expectations

Managing Customer Expectations in Fixed Operations: Dealer Talk Guest Post Author: Leo O’Brien

While the simple truth of the matter is that bigger dealerships have more money and resources,

it’s important to understand that excellent customer service is possible regardless of financial

status. The key to delivering that high-level customer experience every day is consistency in

how you set expectations, communicate, and deliver on those expectations. Service drives are

no different from any other business in this respect. You have at least 5 different steps in the

process of each sale to show your client that you value their business, and that they made the

right choice in opting to work with you. It’s in your best interest to take advantage of every single

step and in doing so, you’ll retain control of the transaction and ensure success every time.

Offer convenient scheduling options

Ease of scheduling is the first way to demonstrate your commitment to making the process as

convenient and streamlined as possible. If you can have a dedicated appointment setter

working in the dealership, you automatically improve the line of communication and improve

your pipeline for future business. That should be the baseline, and there are newer, flashier

methods to add to your arsenal once that base level has been established. You can also have

that appointment setter working via email, as many customers prefer to communicate that way

instead. To really put your best foot forward, consider implementing an online scheduling

system. If you’re only setting appointments over the phone, you’re somewhat bottlenecking your

business by relying on the human factor. Take a look into some of the appointment-setting

services on the market and choose the best option for your unique situation. It’s an extra

expense, but your customers will undoubtedly be impressed by ease-of-use. This first step is

the customer’s first interaction with your business, so it’s important to make it as easy and

simple as possible.

Set realistic expectations

Once your customer sets foot in the dealership, it’s your job to set realistic expectations for the

scope of work. Make sure that you understand exactly what they’re looking for from the very

beginning. What does a job-well-done look like to them? You don’t want any gray area in this

initial discussion. You’ll also want to provide a realistic time frame for when they can expect to

get their car back. The last thing you want to do is over-promise and under-deliver. If it’s going to

take some time due to availability or parts, be upfront about it. Nowadays it’s increasingly

difficult to hire and retain technicians, and that causes all sorts of delays in dealerships.

Learning how to hire automotive technicians can be tricky, especially with the current technician

shortage. If your dealership is booked out for a week or two because you’re not fully staffed, it’s

okay to let your customer know. The same goes for communicating pricing information. You

want to be consistent and clear in how you relay price so that there’s no surprises or

he-said-she-said. Strive to be transparent and honest throughout the entire process and your

business will only benefit.

Communication is key

To enhance customer experience, frequent communication is absolutely essential. Make sure

that every customer knows how to get in touch with their advisor. It’s important to understand

every customer interaction as the beginning of a relationship. Service advisors should take a

little bit of time to actually get to know their customers. Ask them questions about their car or

their life to get a sense of who they are. Establishing this relationship helps the experience feel

far less transactional on both sides, and helps mitigate potential issues down the line. Plus,

customers are far more likely to buy preventative maintenance from a helpful friend than

someone who comes off as disinterested or pushy. As far as the method of communication,

most customers favor text messaging, with 89% indicating it as their preferred channel of

communication with businesses (Twilio). By embracing text messaging, service employees can

provide real-time service updates to customers without the need for phone calls or returning to

their workstations. Handy services like MyKaarma can help service drives take that

communication to the next level by enabling phone, text, and email conversation directly

between service advisors and customers.

Comfort Perks

Once the customer has signed off on their repair(s), you want to close out the interaction in a

way that shows you care. If you have a shuttle service at your dealership, have the driver ready

to give the client a ride home. If you don’t, you can schedule an Uber to show up right as you’re

wrapping things up. And that applies to returning to the store as well; have that shuttle or Uber

give them a ride back to the dealership when the repair’s all done. If resources allow, you could

also provide a loaner car for the customer while your team works on the car. Obviously each of

these perk options have their costs, but it’s important to realize just how significant these extra

steps really are. Increasing your CSI not only helps retain your existing customers, but it helps

you bring in new ones as well. It’s ultimately a win-win situation, and it’s always worth the

expense. If your dealership doesn’t have the money for loaners or a shuttle, that reality may be

a symptom of a deeper problem. Increasing your profitability and efficiency should be a priority

so that you can adopt the kinds of amenities that will keep customers coming back.


You want to maintain the same level of attention to detail from top to bottom, and that means

tightening up your follow-up protocols as well. Don’t ever leave a customer in a position where

they’re left wondering about the status of their car. Make sure your advisors all have a clear

understanding of the process, including how often they need to check in with customers, and a

running list of who they need to check in with every day. And follow-up after the appointment is

just as important as follow-up after the completion of the repair. Make sure that advisors are

checking in with customers as they leave to double-check that they were satisfied with their

experience. If your customer wasn’t satisfied, you don’t want to wait to find out in an online

review. And speaking of those reviews, it’s wise to monitor and respond to reviews as they come

in. If a customer leaves an angry review, it’s always a better call to apologize and offer to make

it up to them rather than disavow it and call them crazy. Future customers will see your replies

and give you credit for doing the right thing. It’s crucial to understand that you started the

transaction with care, so you should end it the same way. An old-fashioned way to show you

care is to send a hand-written thank you note. Not everyone thinks to personalize the process

by taking this extra step and it’s a great touch.

In Sum

Managing customer expectations is entirely within your control regardless of your

particular financial situation. If you do everything within your power to make the entire process

as easy as possible, the customer will take notice. Creating a robust online/phone scheduling

system is the best way to set the table for success. And once the service process is up and

running, it’s the service advisor’s responsibility to keep all lines of communication as open and

transparent as possible. No surprises on pricing or time frame. No going dark on the customer,

forcing them to call the dealership in a huff. No ambiguity at all whatsoever. And once the repair

is complete, how you end the transaction speaks volumes to the customer. Be kind, treat them

with dignity and respect, and take the extra step to personalize the interaction. Show that you

care and you will reap the rewards now and down the line.

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