What is “service” in auto service?

 LILY explores this vague notion called “service". Following the earlier article “ Better service or lower price ”, we shall exa...

 LILY explores this vague notion called “service".

Following the earlier article “Better service or lower price”, we shall examine recent ‘case studies’ from Google-Think’s research on "what drivers want in automotive aftermarket service", which is relevant to those who are in the auto aftermarket industry. According to the research, 81% of drivers agree that quality service is more important than price. What then are the service criteria that drivers are looking for?

Let’s look at a review that was posted in www.carama.com commenting on the service of a particular centre. The key points have been highlighted:
The review managed to expound several criteria that define quality service, which are:

1. Service is providing convenience and comfort.
Today’s customers are impatient. If two customers were made to wait for 20 minutes, and customer A is preoccupied with a newspaper and a cup of coffee while customer B waits idly, the latter might complain about the slow service while the former says “thank you for the quick service”. “Slow” and “fast” are arbitrary, therefore, open to ‘manipulation’ of the customer’s perception to derive at satisfaction.

The customer would not mind even if he was charged for coffee or snacks; add on a TV and reading material, the customer will feel comfortable and occupied. These can “make the time pass faster”, as Kelvin said in his review. What’s more, he actually paid for his own coffee at a conveniently located café nearby, and he declared: “I’d come back again…”

2. Service is providing honest feedback that will please the customers. 
A customer may not have the patience to wait but will have the patience to learn what is in his best interest, thus, he will appreciate when a service centre operator or mechanic goes the extra mile to give “honest feedback”. I myself keep returning to the same mechanic due to one “honest feedback” from him many years ago. My regular service centre had tried to upsell a battery and brake pad to me, without explaining why I needed them; I did not agree to it due to time constraint. The next day, I went to another service centre and, after inspecting my car, the mechanic explained the condition of the brake pad and battery to me, and advised that they didn’t need to be changed yet. Still, I had them both changed there and then for the sake of convenience, and the mechanic, besides inadvertently selling his service to me, earned my loyalty.

Here are some snippets from Google –Think’s research:

“Busy drivers turn to convenient solutions for everyday car problems.”

“Take advantage of the opportunity to build trust for repeat business.”

“The oil change is the first date.”

If the first service centre had provided me honest feedback, I would have returned the next day because it had impressed me enough to do so.

The same research has proven that:

73% would return to a service centre where they have visited for preventative maintenance in their future repairs.”

Therefore, service centres must make effort to make a good first impression.

3. Service is doing things that make customers remember you for good reasons. 
Kelvin remembers that service centre as “average speed, standard service, average price, decent location”. 

No service centre wants its customers to remember it as an “average” service provider, but it wants much more!

Many years ago, at a local clinic, I had politely requested for a non-drowsy medication and the Doctor responded with: “Do not insult the intelligence of the doctor when he makes a decision for you.” What?! Firstly, it was a polite request; secondly, he was the doctor and I only had lay-knowledge that required his guidance. If he had provided a better solution instead of commanding obedience, I would have happily taken his advice and made him my ‘favorite’ doctor. That was the last time I ever step into that clinic.

A mechanic to a car is like a doctor to our health. Respect the customer by explaining the true condition of the car, what needs to be done, why “yes” and why “not”; then let the customer make the decision. Explanations can be short without being in-depth. When returning the car to the customer, brief the customer on what had been done, and remind the customer to come back if subsequent servicing is required.

It does not take much time to provide that little bit of extra service but the mileage from that action is great. For that, the service centre has to emphasise training for the mechanics or sales advisors; we can’t expect returns without investment.

Google-Think’s research found that: “Drivers tend to stay with one shop due to lack of differentiation among service providers rather than high satisfaction.” If a customer stays with a service centre due to “lack of differentiation”, he can very easily leave when another shop differentiates itself by providing more benefits or having a convenient location. The customer might not even remember the centre’s name but can remember the extra benefits received, which heightens the exit barrier for regular customers.


These three points make customers feel important, thus, they reciprocate with loyalty, as far as customer loyalty goes nowadays. What we have discussed so far are not new ideas; but acting on it makes the difference. Peter Drucker, whom Business Week hailed as “the man who invented management” once said: “The problem in my life and other people’s life is not the absence of knowing what to do but the absence of doing it.”

Look out for part two of this article.


image: aamco.com

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