July 12, 2017

Fixing The Car

There's nothing like the thrill of a CHECK ENGINE light to bring your peaceful drive to a haunting close.

You make an appointment ... 8:30am ... and you arrive on time. You pull the car up to an expansive six-lane bay where a worker in a blue shirt waves you in to the far left lane. He asked "who is your service advisor?" and you dutifully respond "I think his name is Chet."

Within seconds, you've been separated from your car. This really tests your relationship, because there is no loaner car in your future. It's just you and Chet.

Chet invites you to sit down at a pseudo-cube and offers you a quenching 16oz bottle of ice-cold water. You tell Chet about your problem - and Chet is really not listening to you because Chet knows that the technician ... Boris ... is going to use a code reader to figure out what is wrong. It simply doesn't matter that you turned the steering wheel a hard left and then a check engine light came on ... your story is irrelevant ... the facts are buried and Boris is going to do what Boris does to solve your problem.

After communicating a mandatory $149 fee, you sign three pages of documents and secretly wonder if you just handed over the title of the car to the dealership? At this point, you are graciously walked over to the customer lounge. What a place! There is an assortment of apples and bananas to choose from, more free ice-cold plastic-bottled water, and the opportunity to take in a half-hour of insight courtesy of Matt Lauer on the giant 68 inch LED television.

This is where the action happens.

Ronaldo sits down next to a fifty-ish woman. He has a sheet with seventy-nine categories coded green, yellow, and red ... and he placed an "X" in magic marker through three of the red boxes ... apparently there is an unanticipated issue with the cabin filter. Another twenty-nine dollars are absorbed into the automotive ecosystem.

Two hours later, Chet informs you that the check engine light was an anomaly - an oxygen sensor apparently threw a code but the "technician" cannot identify the problem and the oxygen sensor is working properly. So after they wash the car for you (retail value = $14.99) you can leave ... you'll part with $149 plus sales tax and an assurance from Chet that if the problem happens again, bring the car in and they'll address the issue free of charge.

You never get to talk to the person who performed the actual work, do you?

Do you even feel comfortable that the actual problem has been solved?

Sure, you have a cold bottle of water and a granola bar in your possession, and your car has been washed. But you don't talk to the actual person who did the actual work. You talk to Chet.

When you work with your vendor partners ... are you working with Chet, or are you getting to actually speak with Boris? Do you get to learn what actually goes into the "algorithm" that determines who your new customers are? Or are you given a sheet with red boxes ... better known as a "dashboard" in our industry?

I keep running into challenging situations ... where my clients are working with Chet and they need to be working with Boris. Sure, my clients are getting granola bars and cold water and the occasional banana - but they need to have an honest discussion with Boris.

If we're gonna "fix it", then we need to speak with Boris, don't you think?