Springtime . . . birds, sun, warmer weather and a chance to get the “Z” out for a spin.  I have driven it at every opportunity during the winter which hasn’t been many (rough winter).  As I sat in the cockpit of my machine and put the key in the ignition and turned it, I heard an unfamiliar click and dying of sound and light.

BMW Logo in Düsseldorf Hellerhof: Hans Branden...
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The next moment I found myself strapping the jumper cables to the Infiniti and charging up my mid-life crisis.  No problem instant gratification and took her out for a drive. 

The next day the same (now familiar) click of the engine and a no go.  The next move was to call my Dreyer and Reinbold BMW dealership for battery replacement.  I informed them of my problem and was put through to Parts to see if they had my battery.  I was asked if I wanted to install the battery myself and knowing my mechanical capability and not sure if the battery was the only problem I replied “no.”

Next came the scheduling and appointment set for 10:30 AM next day.  The next day came and I arrived at 10:25 AM for my diagnosis and battery replacement.  15 minutes later I was greeted by my service advisor and informed me the battery would cost $230 plus $120 for the diagnosis.  Although the price seemed high, I felt that this matter had to be settled and off my BMW went to be fixed.

I was told that the car would be done in about an hour.  I took advantage of the lovely waiting area complete with free coffee and soft drinks.  I decided to follow the events of the service desk, so I sat close by and listened as customers walked in and out.

During that time it became painfully clear that calling on the phone to ask a question was not popular among the service agents.  After some firm talk from the receptionist an advisor would pick up.  I suspect (as I listened to the phone calls) that part of the problem was the inability of the service advisor to actually answer questions that required a technician’s expertise.

I proceeded to listen as I took a couple of phone calls.  Checking my watch I realized 90 minutes had gone by and still no sign of my car.  I submitted an inquiry to the receptionist who would get back to me.  She did and I was told 5-10 more minutes.

35 minutes later my car shows up and I follow the keys to the cashier.  Getting my credit card out to pay I was told the paperwork had not arrived and I would also need to talk to the service advisor.  I walked over to the service advisor who was on the phone (but on-hold) and was informed that I might consider something to extend the battery warranty for two years.

I was surprised that the battery wasn’t under warranty, but at this point I wanted to pay and get out.  I could have played nine holes of golf had I known that this was to be an event.  End-to-end time was 134 minutes from the time I arrived to the time I left.  The dealership had badly missed its promise time.

And so it is with service in auto dealerships.  Little (if any) concept of promise times and commitments or that maybe customers do have something else to do that day.  The answer isn’t just making a nice waiting room, but eliminating the wait.

A better design of work may be in order . . . as this dealership had no less than 6 service agents, hidden away in the back are unknown amount of service technicians.  Service will always need to happen on cars or any other transportation that may come our way this millenium.  Getting started now in improving the service would be a good thing.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.